The cross country novice established himself as one of Cartersville's top runners as the season progressed.
"I think he had the kind of season that a lot of coaches dream about," Purple Hurricanes coach David Matherne said of Herrera, a sophomore. "It's exciting to know that his future's still in front of him."
While Herrera knew little about cross country to start the season, he did benefit from his participation in another sport.
"He came out in relatively good shape in general because he plays soccer and he's active year-round, [but] he didn't really know anything about cross country," Matherne said of The Daily Tribune News' All-County Boys Cross Country Rookie of the Year.
Whatever Herrera lacked in knowledge, however, he made up for with fearlessness, something clear during Cartersville's first practices.
"The very first practice, I kind of did a tough run for him," said Matherne of his initiation for Herrera and other new runners, which encompassed the hill off of Fairview Street and down Opal Street. "That's a pretty steep hill to put it mildly. ... I told Roger, among other new guys, not to push it. ... I really didn't want to get him intimidated where he wouldn't come back the next day, but he definitely wasn't that.
"A lot of kids kind of looked at it, and their mouths dropped."
Not only did Herrera survive the hill, but he asked for more.
"He said, 'Coach, can I do it again?'" Matherne continued. "I knew right then I had a special kid to work with."
Throughout interval training, the Canes coach noted that Herrera had an ability and a drive to continue pushing, despite the magnitude of the workout.
"He never seemed to be so tired that he couldn't unleash that kick. I was definitely impressed with that," Matherne added.
Even with a stack of impressive practices, the longtime coach could not be sure of how Herrera would perform during an actual meet.
"I wasn't sure how he would race. There's more strategy [required] than a lot of people know about," Matherne said.
At the Pickens Preview in Jasper, Herrera made some rookie mistakes.
When Matherne pulled him aside following that 20-minute, 20-second race and explained where he had erred, the coach came away impressed by the runner's attentiveness.
"He was soaking it all up," Matherne recalled. "Right away, the next meet, he applied some of those things we had talked about and didn't make some of the rookie mistakes he made in the first meet."
Herrera ran an 18:37 at The Berry Invitational, which had 70 teams.
A couple meets later, Herrera learned another lesson when he lost a late lead to Woodland's Cameron Leonard to surrender first place at the Cartersville Classic at Tellus Science Museum.
Though he ran a respectable 18:26 for second place -- 23 seconds behind Leonard -- Matherne noted that Herrera probably should have won the race.
"Sometimes you run against the course, sometimes you run against the clock, sometimes you run against the competition. You have to know when to do which one," the coach said.
Ten days later at the Bartow County Championship on Sept. 28, Herrera edged Leonard by running a 17:52 to win the county meet.
"He ran a great tactical race," Matherne said of Herrera's showing at Manning Mill Park in Adairsville.
"He's coachable, he's humble -- which means that he knows he can be beaten -- and he works hard to earn the respect that everyone gives him. He's reliable. A lot of times, stellar athletes don't work hard because they don't feel like they have to."
Herrera brought a great deal of energy to Cartersville, which qualified for the state meet in Carrollton last fall.
"He's real spirited. ... He was always the first guy at our meets with the [vuvuzelas]," Matherne said, referencing Herrera's penchant for sounding the African horn popularized at last summer's World Cup, an act most notable after Cartersville swept all four races -- varsity and junior varsity boys and girls -- at the county meet.
"He's a competitive guy."
Matherne said Herrera, who finished eighth at the Region 7-AAA meet with a 17:38, could qualify for state with a top-six finish as an individual next season in addition to another possible appearance from the team.
"The first big question mark is what he does over the summer, how determined he is to follow a systematic plan," the coach said. "I don't see why he couldn't win region next year. No one's going to outkick him. ... Roger will run 16-something next year.
"He's like a combination of a hybrid car and a Mustang. He's got the miles per gallon down, he has that endurance, but he's also got that horsepower at the end," Matherne continued. "I think he's got as much potential as anybody I've ever coached, but whether he does all these incredible things will depend on whether he avoids injury [and] whether he can stay mentally focused and not burn out."