The old trope “big fish in a small pond” implies that a large fish in a little pond stands out among its less accomplished competitors. At the NCAA West Regionals on May 26-29, Cal track and field found itself in the opposite scenario: It was a big fish in an even bigger pond.
Cal headed into the meet in Texas knowing that it would be facing some of the toughest competition in the country and prepared to the best of its abilities — with results to show for it.
Junior Camryn Rogers and senior Iffy Joyner advanced to the NCAA championships taking place on June 9-12 in Eugene, Oregon, proving they could swim in the nation’s best pool of competitors.
Although Rogers’ best throw was almost a meter below her career best, she practically sailed to a first-place finish at regionals. In fact, Rogers’ throw was nearly 3 meters ahead of silver medalist Alyssa Wilson. Furthermore, Rogers still remains No. 1 in the nation for the hammer throw. Rogers’ performance reveals the true depth of her talent and her ability to outperform even the fiercest of competition. In Oregon, Rogers’ skill will be put to the test against the qualifiers from both the East and West Regionals.
Joyner’s throw in the discus event was also below his personal best, indicating that he still has more to give in Oregon.
Despite all the various methods of comparison between competitors at the NCAA West Regionals, Cal’s assistant throws coach Mohamad Saatara knows the secret to success under pressure is simple. According to him, a major factor that contributes to peak performances at meets such as these is “being focused on yourself instead of other people.” Clearly, Rogers and Joyner were able to hone in on their individual performances and focus on their goal of qualifying.
Sophomore Jasmine Blair was only two spots away from advancing to the Outdoor Championships in the hammer throw. Her performance was riddled with obstacles, including a nagging knee injury and a forced redo due to a technical error with the laser measurement system. Despite these challenges, Blair still managed to secure a career-best throw of 61.21 meters.
For Saatara, the key takeaway of the throws squad’s performance was composure under pressure. “When you’re dealing with stress, you have to execute in the moment and there aren’t a lot of rounds,” Saatara said.
The women’s 4 x 100 meter relay narrowly missed qualifying. The team, composed of junior Ezinne Abba, junior Maisie Stevens, sophomore Sonia Redon and senior Deshae Wise, came in 13th place, only one spot away from advancing to the championships.
Not only did Abba help the relay place in the top 15, but she also achieved the all-time school record of 11.30 in the 100 meters. Wise notched the top school record in the 60-meter hurdles and the second all-time record in the 100-meter hurdles.
After a few days of stress and pressure to perform at the West Regionals, most of Cal track and field will be retiring for the season. Only Rogers and Joyner will compete at the NCAA championships, but the blue and gold will be rooting for them from home.
The NCAA Outdoor Championships will be an even bigger pond, this time made up of the top 12 in each event from both the eastern and western regions. Rogers and Joyner are sure to find success if they continue their upward trends from earlier in the season.
Mia Horne covers track and field and cross country. Contact her at [email protected].