During a normal, non-pandemic track and field season, spectators crowd the stadium and coaches pace around the field, moving from one athlete to another to motivate them and check in on their progress. The energy at these events is intense and the noise of fans cheering rings in your ears as the starter pistol fires and runners leap out of their blocks.
A track meet during a pandemic looks slightly different, with athletes and coaches more spaced out from each other and fans absent from the stands. The NCAA Indoor Championships was no exception, but the high stakes and intense energy that comes with having the top competitors from around the country in the same room created an atmosphere not too unlike what it would have been during a normal season.
After more than a year’s hiatus from competition, senior Camryn Rogers, star thrower for Cal track and field, returned to college athletics’ biggest stage at the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 11. As the reigning 2019 NCAA D1 Outdoor champion in the hammer throw, Rogers was looking for success in another event at the Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Rogers came in sixth place in the weight throw out of sixteen top competitors from all over the country. Her mark of 22.08 meters gave her a new personal record.
Junior Makenli Forrest from Louisville took first place in the weight throw with a mark of 23.26. While Rogers couldn’t quite match Forrest, the senior surpassed expectations by earning a PR and finishing just outside the top five when she had been seeded tenth entering the contest.
“I love competing with high energy and a lot of intensity, being able to do that and be there with the best weight throwers in the country really pushed me to do better and be better,” Rogers said. “I love being able to go in there, get in the circle and really just focus on putting everything out on the field and doing everything I could.”
Rogers made the decision to redshirt the 2020 indoor season, meaning the last event she competed in was in August of 2019. After learning the 2020 outdoor season would be canceled due to the pandemic, Rogers had to re-evaluate what the future of her athletic career had in store.
“We always plan everything out very far in advance,” Rogers said. “Last year, so much was still unknown at the time. I remember my coach saying we should continue to do exactly what we’ve been doing. The unknowns with everything happening will come to an end and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. You want to make sure that when that light comes, you’re ready no matter what.”
And, after her sixth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, it’s undeniable that Rogers was ready when opportunities to compete returned.
On March 20, the Bears will resume competition at the Trojan Invitational in Los Angeles, California. This will be the second meet of their outdoor track season. Rogers will be taking a break from competing but will be back shortly to continue her senior season.
The hammer throw is Rogers’s main and best event. She competed in the weight throw at the Indoor Championships and throughout the indoor season, but will return to the hammer throw heading into the outdoor season.
“Next weekend I’m going to be a cheerleader, which is my favorite thing to do at meets,” Rogers said. “We’re going to put the weight away, put it back into our little equipment shed, and focus back in solely on the hammer and getting ready, so when we open up we open with something big and go from there.”
Mia Horne covers track and field and cross country. Contact her at [email protected]