FEATURE Serra's Pleasant ready for more at Arcadia Invite

*  State sprint champion Rodrick Pleasant is set for the competition at Arcadia

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/California MileSplit

GARDENA, Cal. -- There's more to Rodrick Pleasant than what is seen when he competes in a track meet.

That's a very good thing, considering the total amount of time on a track for his typical three events is less than a minute.

The Gardena Serra High School senior runs the 100 and 200 meter dashes and anchors the Cavaliers' 4x100 relay. Pleasant doesn't waste time. He means business.

If you blink, especially in the 100m, you could miss him.

"I really don't remember the (100) race because it happens so fast," says Pleasant, the defending CIF state 100m and 200m champion. "It's a blur."

His personal-best 100m time is 10.14 and it was achieved at the 2022 CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet. It shattered the California state record that was set in 1985 and tied in 2021. What's more, that happened one week after a 10.16 in the CIF-SS Division Final.

Windy conditions for the state prelims and final at the end of May netted him only -- only -- a 10.38 and 10.30, respectively. He then ran a wind-aided 10.23 at last June's New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia.

In the 200m, his PR of 20.40 came at last year's SS-Division Final, en route to wins at the SS Masters Meet (20.49) and the CIF state final (wind-aided 20.56). That personal best also ranks No. 2 all-time among Golden State sprinters.

When Pleasant runs just over a 20 second 200m, it's almost a luxury to see more of his talent.

"The 200m is more patient," he says. "It's my favorite race because it is longer. I'm more into it, more excited. I love the difference between the 100m and 200m because they each bring their own element to the sport."

The 4x100 relay is a perfect combination for Pleasant.

While his work from the anchor position is satisfying -- "I love to finish the race, love being the closer. I love it when that part of the race is on me and I've got to win." -- he truly approaches it from a group mentality.

"The relay is all about our team. It's a chance to have fun with your guys. You push each other and it can all add up to a big win," says Pleasant, who ran on a team that last year won division and Masters Meet titles before settling for a CIF state runner-up finish with a season-best time of 41.50.

So far in 2023, Pleasant ran in two indoor season meets. He went to Pocatello, Idaho in mid-February for the Simplot Games and ran the 60m in a time of 6.80, which was a new PR. Pleasant then ran at Nike Indoor Nationals in early March, on the Armory Track in New York.

He ran two events, 60m and 200m, and was timed through the 40 meter and 55m splits. He ran indoor PR times in the 40m (4.63), 55m (6.34) and 200 (21.41). His best 60m was 6.82 in the final.

Pleasant's outdoor track performances have been few -- he's run just one 100m, one 200m and one 4x100 relay race -- but his talent has seemingly been in mid-season form.

The relay was first, at the March 17-18 California Relays in Long Beach, and Serra's result was a 41.76, beating runner-up Cajon (41.94). The race concluded with Pleasant and another top state sprinter, Cajon (SS) senior JeyQuan Smith, battling on the anchor leg.

The 200m race was a win in 21.88 at the March 25 Pasadena Games. Pleasant then kicked off the month of April last Saturday by running a meet-record-tying 10.40 to win the 100 at the Trabuco Hills Invitational.

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/California MileSplit

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Pleasant's season will rev up significantly at the 55th Arcadia Invitational this weekend. He will compete in the Invitation-only 100m and 200m and the 4x100 relay on Saturday. His Friday to-run list could be in the 800 sprint medley relay or 4x200 relay.

The prospect of seeing more Pleasant in these fast races -- he's also expected to compete for the first time at the Mt. SAC Relays next weekend -- is great because it shows his commitment as a true two-sport athlete in high school.

He has also been a star cornerback for Serra's football program, where he was ranked as a four-star recruit.

The dual-sport focus has been the norm for most of the 18-year-old's life. Pleasant started youth track with the Los Angeles Jets track club at age 5, played flag football the same year and then tackle football a year later. He also had role models and older brothers, like Dominic Davis, a football and track athlete at Bishop Alemany, and Diab Davis, who ran track at Alemany.

Pleasant's love for competing in both sports has only grown. He's been very successful in both pursuits in high school and, starting this fall, Pleasant will continue his two-way athletic career at the University of Oregon.

One key reason why, he says, was that he asked to continue his two-sport lifestyle there.

"Track and football go hand-in-hand for me. There are special things about each sport that are unique and I love both. Oregon will let me do both sports. Some schools, yes, didn't want me to do both. Oregon is a special place. The fans are amazing. Oregon has great football and you can't go wrong being in Tracktown, USA," says Pleasant, referring to the campus city of Eugene, which hosts numerous high-caliber national track meets each year.

Pleasant and both Serra head coaches, football's Scott Altenberg and track's Christopher Mack, were asked about the football-track connection and what each sport contributes to an athlete's make-up.

All three felt toughness, both mentally and physically, was a key transferable skill from football to track. Both coaches said track's speed training is a major asset for football, particularly in Pleasant's case.

The athlete himself answered that track gives him the ability to sharpen his competitiveness, mental focus, and boost accountability.

"He's very determined and I think he's matured about what he's doing," Coach Altenberg says. "It reminds me of when (current NFL wide receiver) Robert Woods was here and was going through it. Same with George Farmer and Adoree' Jackson. They all had this maturity that just transcended their age. When you get a guy who does so well and so fast in track and in football, sometimes they get pushed to specialize in one sport. That's not who we are at Serra. Rodrick has handled it very well. I was very excited that he came back for his senior track season."

Mack, who has been successful in previous coaching stints with dual-sport athletes prior to his August 2022 arrival at Serra, believes Pleasant's decision to attend Oregon and his insistence to continue with both sports will be a positive, both now and later.

"Having that type of distraction can weigh heavily on your mind until you make a decision," Mack said. "I think that now that it has been settled, it will be a big help with his performance, his energy, psychologically, and physically. He knows he's going to a school that will continue to nurture his development in both sports."

Serra's track team is the immediate beneficiary.

Pleasant is dialed in on what he can do. Arcadia is the next test. He will run in only his second Arcadia Invitational and he's got something to motivate him.

Last year, Pleasant was fourth in the 100m with a time of 10.57 and he helped his 4x100 squad finish third with a time of 41.05. He strained a quad muscle during the meet, too, but thankfully recovered and went on to have his historic 2022 CIF post-season.

Truthfully, Pleasant's best highlights on the Arcadia track came in late June 2021 for a different kind of invitational -- as host site for the "alternative" state meet during the COVID-19 pandemic when CIF officials chose to cancel its official State Championship meet for a second straight year.

Pleasant ran 10.47 in the 100m prelims and then 10.32 to finish second in the 100m final. He also ran the 200m, winning it in 20.59.

In 2023, Pleasant counts the Arcadia Invitational as an important piece of his April game plan to build toward May's "championship season."

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/California MileSplit

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While his results will come quickly given the nature of the events and times he runs, there's quite a bit that will go into Pleasant's game plan.

He is true team member of a veteran and tight-knit Cavaliers squad that enjoys focused, yet fun, practice sessions. When he watches TV, he's a fan of the show tied to Flash, a superhero who is known for his "super speed."

A big Lakers basketball fan, the most recent book Pleasant has read is Kobe Bryant's "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play." He likes to wear clothing with his own inspired and created name, Never Pleasant.

Once he's at a track meet venue, Pleasant wears headphones, listens to music artists such as Meek Mill, Nipsey Hussle and Drake on his "Meet Day" playlist.

And then, he steps onto the track to get in the starting block or stands and awaits the final relay baton exchange, he turns into the ultimate competitor. 

"I'm preparing for it all right now," he says. "Competing is the biggest thing for me, to get races under my belt and sharpen the tools and get ready for CIF. I'm excited to compete at Arcadia and to have fun."


Boys 100 Meters

1     Noah Lyles (T.C. Williams, Alexandria, VA)                               10.17           2016

2      Javelin Guidry (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta, CA)                             10.34              2017

2      Austin Kratz (Dock Mennonite Academy, Lansdale, PA)           10.34               2018

4      Curtis Godin (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, CA)                                   10.36               2014

4      Jamere Holland (Taft, Woodland Hills, CA)                                10.36               2006

6      Xavier Carter (Palm Bay, Melbourne, FL)                                  10.38               2003

7      Max Thomas (Servite, Anaheim, CA)                                         10.40               2022

7      Christian Grubb (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks, CA)                  10.40               2019

7      Henry Thomas (Hawthorne, CA)                                                10.40               1985

10    Raymond Bozmans (Fort Collins, CO)                                      10.41               2012

10    Bennie Robinson (Poly, Long Beach, CA)                                 10.41               2000


Boys 200 Meters

1      Noah Lyles (T.C. Williams, Alexandria, VA)                               20.48               2016

2      Austin Kratz (Dock Mennonite Academy, Lansdale, PA)           20.74               2018

3      Henry Thomas (Hawthorne, CA)                                                20.79               1985=

4      Paul Lucas (Mountain Pointe, Phoenix, AZ)                              20.84               2014

5      Xavier Carter (Palm Bay, Melbourne, FL)                                  20.85               2003

6      Quincy Watts (Taft, Woodland Hills, CA)                                   20.89               1987

7      Miguel Fletcher (Alemany, Mission Hills, CA)                            20.94               1998

7      Eric Allen Jr. (Bullis School, Potomac, MD)                               20.94               2018

9      Max Thomas (Servite, Anaheim, CA)                                         20.97               2022

10    Micah Williams (Benson Tech, Portland, OR)                            21.03               2019

10    Curtis Godin (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, CA)                                   21.03               2014

10    Brian Bridgewater (Washington, Los Angeles, CA)                   21.03               1988

Source: arcadiainvitational.org

Ryan Blystone is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit

Photos by Raymond Tran