Sandburg Mourns Passing of Cross-Country Coach Rodney Blue

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Sandburg mourns the loss of cross country coach Rodney Blue, a Chargers alumnus who returned to lead the program to its most successful stretch ever, who died Tuesday at age 66.

Blue had served as the Chargers’ men’s and women’s cross country coach since 2015. He first joined the program as an assistant in 2011.

Members of the Carl Sandburg College Cross Country men’s and women’s teams conduct their hill practice on Thursday behind OSF St. Mary’s Medical Center. This is one of two locations the runners practice, the other being the Sandburg Main Campus. Sunny and 86℉ made for a good workout.

Under Blue’s direction, Sandburg sent a team or individual to the NJCAA national meet in each of the eight seasons it fielded a squad. In total, the Chargers sent seven teams (women in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, and men from 2021-23) and 11 individuals to the national meet with Blue as head coach. In 2021, both Chargers teams recorded program-bests at nationals, as the men’s team placed sixth and the women finished 22nd. The Chargers men’s team also produced three All-Americans during Blue’s tenure.

Blue was named Region 4 Coach of the Year five times in his career, and his teams won five region championships. Sandburg’s women’s team won the Region 4 title in 2019, the first time either Chargers cross country program had claimed a region championship. It added another Region 4 crown in 2022. This past season, the men’s team won its third consecutive region title.

In addition to his coaching role, Blue worked in the college’s fitness center as a fitness skills coach. He was a popular figure among students and other fitness center patrons for his welcoming smile, firm handshake and willingness to impart his wisdom on those who came to him for advice of all kinds.

“Beyond being a successful and outstanding coach, Coach Blue was a great person and a fantastic mentor, not just for our student-athletes but for our entire campus community,” athletic director Daniella Irle said. “Rodney was always a welcome face for everyone at Sandburg and had a special way of connecting with people. Our hearts go out to his family and the countless others he impacted throughout his coaching career and his life.”

Blue had years of coaching experience at the elementary, junior high and high school levels before becoming part of Sandburg’s staff. He spent 2008-2010 as the head coach of the Galesburg junior high cross country program, and his 2010 girls team recorded the only undefeated season in its history. As sprint coach for the Galesburg High School boys track and field team from 2008-09, Blue helped the Silver Streaks finish fourth in Class 2A at the 2009 state meet. Their 4×400-meter relay also set a school record and was the state runner-up that year.

Prior to his time coaching in the Galesburg area, Blue was an assistant at United Township High School in East Moline from 1999-2002, aiding the Panthers’ boys track teams as well as their boys and girls cross country programs. He also spent time as a coach at the elementary level in the Rock Island/Milan School District.

An accomplished runner in his own right, Blue held the 400-meter record at Galesburg High School for 20 years and finished 10th in the event at the 1976 state meet. He also helped set school records in the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays during his high school career. Blue was inducted into the GHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.

Blue remained active on the track well into his later years, competing in masters events and the Quad Cities Senior Olympics. At the Senior Olympics in 2020, he took home gold in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter runs.

Visitation will be 3-8 p.m. July 12 at Watson Thomas Funeral Home and Crematory in Galesburg, with the family present from 5-8 p.m. Funeral services will be 1 p.m. July 13 at Bethel Baptist Church in Galesburg.

Blue is survived by his wife, Cindy; sons Rodney Jr. (Jill) and Drexler; a stepson, Jason (Traycie) Nigoza; a stepdaughter, Jami (Ryan) White; a guarddaughter, Marissa Wingo; and seven grandchildren.

OBITUARY FOR RODNEY BLUE

***Courtesy of Carl Sandburg College***

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