By Hannah Melcher
As his feet hit the pavement for warm-ups, Shomari Rogers-Walton placed his earbuds into his ears. While his teammates play songs from Billboard’s Top 100, Rogers-Walton selects a different playlist. The symphonies of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart help propel him across the track.
“Hype music is not my thing,” Rogers-Walton said. “I listen to orchestra music. It helps me clear my mind and calms me down.”
Rogers-Walton has orchestrated a record-breaking freshman year despite missing out for most of the indoor season due to injury,
In the Lenny Lyles Cardinal Invitational on Feb. 17, Rogers-Walton broke the indoor program record in both the 60-meter and the freshman 60-meter after finishing in 6.91 seconds in the preliminaries. He broke the record set by Damar Williams who ran a 6.99 in the 2013 GLVC Indoor Championships.
During this meet, Rogers-Walton also broke the program’s freshman long jump record with a 6.80-meter jump, placing second overall.
These achievements earned him the Atlantic Sun Conference Men’s Indoor Track and Field Freshman of the Week honor for the week of Feb. 22.
At the ASUN Indoor Championships on Feb. 26, Rogers-Walton tied the men’s program record for the long jump with a 6.98-meter jump, placing fourth at the meet. The jump ties recently voted Bellarmine Field Athlete of the Decade Ben Kolb’s record set at the 2011 Mastodon Opener.
Rogers-Walton said he is grateful for these records but they are not his main focus.
“It feels great,” Rogers-Walton said. “But my work is not done yet. I am only just beginning.”
Rogers-Walton credits a lot of his success as an athlete to the conductors of his life.
“Both of my parents hold really high standards for our family,” Rogers-Walton said. “My mom always says that if my siblings and I are not the best at what we are doing, then we are not doing something right.”
These high standards also were carried into academics Rogers-Walton said, “If our grades were not right, then none of us were even allowed to touch a sport.”
Rogers-Walton said his family does not put up with excuses and this mindset is what fuels him to practice at such a high tempo.
It was not until his junior year of high school that Rogers-Walton said he began to take track more seriously.
“My first love was soccer, and I played a year of football in high school as well, but I love watching and playing sports in general,” he said.
Rogers-Walton said he had to fine-tune his conditioning as he prepared for track.
“I was fast in middle school, so I thought I could go into high school and it would be the same,” Rogers-Walton said. “That was not the case, and it definitely served as a wake-up call.”
During his four years at Noblesville High School in Indiana, Rogers-Walton broke the school’s long jump record, won sectionals and placed third in regionals.
After his senior season was cut short due to Covid-19, Rogers-Walton said he used his frustration to fuel his transition into becoming a collegiate athlete.
“I honestly did not do anything track-related for a while because I was just mad at the world that I did not have a season,” Rogers-Walton said. “As I prepared for college, I knew I had to really get focused and stay consistent with my work ethic.”
Bill Hearn, assistant coach for track and field multi events and jumps, said Shomari Rogers-Walton is quickly learning how to train as a full-time Division 1 athlete. Photo courtesy of Emma Fletcher.
Rogers-Walton said he always had dreams of becoming a Division I athlete, and when Bellarmine made the move up from Division II, he became interested in its track program.
“As soon as I filled out the recruitment form, I was contacted in like two hours. That did not happen with any other school, so that really caught my eye,” Rogers-Walton said.
From the moment that he showed interest, Rogers-Walton said the coaches were persistent on having him join the program.
Bill Hearn, assistant coach for track and field multi events and jumps, said he was impressed when he first met Rogers-Walton.
“He brings a lot of talent and potential to our team,” Hearn said. “We are very fortunate to have landed a recruit of his caliber.”
Hearn said Rogers-Walton has the potential to be a tremendous leader on the team.
“He is very inquisitive, and he frequently offers tips and advice to others,” Hearn said. “Even though he is only a freshman, he is one of the most talented and athletic individuals on the team.”
Rogers-Walton said the mindset of Bellarmine’s track program is what stood out the most to him.
“The guys on the team all had the attitude and work ethic of getting better,” Rogers-Walton said. “So coming into a group of guys who truly loved track helped motivate me even more.”
Ryan Hawkins, who is also an athlete in Bellarmine’s track program, said Rogers-Walton helps to add a sense of competitiveness to each practice.
“He is a freak of an athlete,” Hawkins said. “He has a 40-inch vertical and runs a 4.3-second 40. He is the first teammate that I have had that seems like he was built for track and field.”
With an energetic personality, Rogers-Walton said track has struck a chord in his life.
“As a long jumper, I love being able to put all my energy into my jumps. I always am bouncing around in practice, so having an outlet where I can release all my energy is amazing for me.”
Rogers-Walton is a sports administration major with a minor in digital media. He said he plans to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.
“I want to eventually work for Overtime or a similar organization,” Rogers-Walton said. “I want to produce the sports mixtapes that are on their social media pages.”
While his roots lie in Noblesville, Rogers-Walton said Bellarmine already feels like home.
“Noblesville was not as ethnically diverse as Louisville is,” Rogers-Walton said. “It was such a relief to come here and see more people who looked like me.”
Rogers-Walton is heavily involved in Bellarmine’s community outside of his sport. He is a member of Black Student Union, African Student Association and the Week of Welcome Team.
Rogers-Walton has a 3.7 GPA, but he said he is working toward a 3.8 or 3.9 GPA. He said he hopes to make the ASUN All-Academic Team.
Still, Rogers-Walton said his interests extend far beyond track and school.
“I love Applebee’s, and I love to eat,” Rogers Walton said. “I also play Minecraft a lot and enjoy joking around with my friends.”
Rogers-Walton said he would have never known the potential he had to be such a successful college athlete if it had not been for his high school jumps coach.
“He always told me that I was not good enough to get a scholarship, so all I did was work to prove him wrong,” Rogers-Walton said. “But I know he was telling me that to push me even harder. He saw something in me that I did not know yet.”
With outdoor season beginning, Rogers-Walton said his main goal is to win the conference.
“I am not satisfied with my fourth-place finish at the indoor championships,” Rogers-Walton said. “So I am going to do everything in my power to train and prepare to get first at the outdoor championships.”
Bellarmine’s track program began its outdoor season on March 26 at the Margaret Simmons Invite at Murray State. Photo courtesy of Emma Fletcher.
Hearn said he is looking forward to seeing Rogers-Walton continue to train and improve during his collegiate career.
“He can be as talented as he wants to be over the next three years here,” Hearn said. “With hard work, commitment and determination he can rewrite the long jump and short sprint record books at Bellarmine, both indoor and outdoor.”
Rogers-Walton said remaining calm and focused is his main goal.
“I want to be the greatest that I can be at this sport,” Rogers-Walton said. “And Bellarmine allows me plenty of opportunities to continue to get better.”
As the sound of the strings faded from his earbuds, Rogers-Walton looked at his surroundings. He took a deep breath, bent down and tightened the laces on his shoes, preparing to take the stage for yet another successful meet as a Bellarmine Knight.