‘Miles for Mayo’ 5K to honor Matías Rogers

Press file photo

Matías Rogers, a 16-year-old student from Liberty High School, died following a head-on traffic collision on Sellers Avenue in June, 2021.

Last June, Matías Rogers, a 16-year-old high school track and cross country star who had become a friend to many, died in a traffic collision on Sellers Avenue. Soon after, a vigil was hosted in Matías’ honor, where his life and career as a runner were celebrated by both his family and the East County community. Now, almost a year later, the community can celebrate and remember Matías through the ‘Miles for Mayo’ 5K on April 16 in Veterans Park.

“‘What would Matías do?’ or ‘What would Matías want?’ are questions that help guide my decisions every day,” explained Ron Rogers, Matías’ father. “He would want us to turn our grief into something positive that helps others find happiness, confidence and inspiration, like he did through running. Creating an annual 5K was something I started thinking about late in 2021 as a way to honor his legacy and help us channel our pain and sadness into a celebration for Matías and the things he stood for.” The 5k has both in-person and online options, and highlights one of Matías’ passions: running.

“Running lifted Matías’ spirits, challenged his ambitions and inspired him to reach new heights,” Rogers said of his son’s accomplishments. “He holds the fastest distance times for both a freshman and sophomore in Liberty High School’s history.”

Not only that, but he also held one of the fastest 3-mile times for a sophomore in 2021 nationwide. This time was 14 minutes and 57 seconds, broken down to just under a 5-minute average per mile. Matías also was named the winner of Liberty High School’s 2021 Boys Student Citizenship Award for high grades, exemplary character, teamwork, and his athletic achievements.

The 5K is open to anyone who wants to run or walk the 3.1-mile distance. “Matías would want this event to be inclusive of anyone who would like to participate, so all are welcome and there is no limit,” said Rogers. “All runners, walkers, volunteers and audience members are welcome to come out to Veterans Park on April 16 in support of Matías. We are taking registration up through the morning of the run, which starts at 9 a.m.”

Rogers said the 5K was called ‘Miles for Mayo,’ because of Matías’ background. “The nickname “Mayo” comes from Matías’ ability to turn a negative into a positive. During middle school, a classmate would make fun of him by calling him “Mayo,” because Matías had a deep pride for his Mexican heritage on his mother’s side, but his skin tone took after his dad’s lighter European heritage,” he recalled. “The classmate said he looked white like mayonnaise, hence ‘Mayo.’ Initially, Matías was bothered by the name calling, but he learned to embrace the nickname and soon, with his blessing, most of his friends turned it into a term of endearment. By the time he became one of the top young distance runners in the country, everyone in high school knew him as ‘Mayo.’”

Matías was described by his father as someone who would cook first and eat last, and give without expecting anything in return. At his core, Matías lived his life selflessly and generously, aiming to make a difference in the lives of others through kindness and generosity. It is because of this that Matías cannot be remembered only as an athlete, but as a person who was unconditionally giving to those around him.

“Running was his passion, and he had a natural gift and work ethic that was leading him down a path to become one of the greatest to ever do it. But it didn’t define him,” Rogers said. “He was much more than a runner. We hope, through this event and all of the video footage available on our website, people get to know what kind of person he was and are inspired by him to find happiness for themselves. That’s what he would want from this event – to make people happy.”

For more information or to register for the ‘Miles for Mayo’ run, visit www.milesformayo.org.

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