The bigger the stage, the greater the pressure. Track and field has reached the pinnacle of the outdoor season and will conclude after one final competition, where the intensity is high and the stakes are even higher.
This closing event of the 2021 track season will see Cal’s own junior Camryn Rogers and senior Iffy Joyner face off against the top 12 athletes in their respective events from around the country. The NCAA championships are taking place in Eugene, Oregon from June 9-12 and will be the very last chance for competitors to prove themselves on the biggest stage that collegiate track and field has to offer.
Rogers and Joyner were the only athletes for the blue and gold to qualify for the championships at the NCAA West Regionals. Both throwers had impressive seasons, with Rogers earning the Pac-12 crown in hammer throw and Joyner placing third in the conference in discus throw. The throws group stands out as one of the most talented squads on Cal’s team, with support from throws coach Mohamad Saatara and head coach Robyne Johnson.
As the reigning NCAA hammer throw champion, the pressure is on for Rogers to perform against fierce competition. Luckily for Rogers, she does best under pressure.
“I like a lot of stress, I like high intensity environments around me and I like to use it,” Rogers said. “Sometimes you can let it overcome you, but I’ve learned to use the pressure as a source of fuel. It’s one of the most fun parts about competing.”
As prestigious as the NCAA championships are, they’re not even the most selective event Rogers will be attending this summer. Rogers has qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in the hammer throw and will be representing her home country of Canada.
Along with preparing for the championships these past few weeks, Rogers and her coaches have been taking into account the upcoming Olympic Games. Rogers’ training schedule is constructed around both the championships and the Olympics — making sure she peaks for both but rests in between.
“You need to know how you operate and what your body likes to do when placed under pressure,” Rogers said. “Once you understand yourself better, you can manage yourself in order to have the best performance possible.”
Rogers and Joyner plan on building off of each other’s success at the championships. Rogers will compete first Thursday, followed by Joyner’s performance Friday.
Each competitor at the NCAA championships will only get six chances at establishing their best mark, three more than at the West Regionals but still very few opportunities to end the season with a bang.
“When I release the hammer and it’s a good throw, I know immediately by the way that it flys and by my stability when I release it — then it’s just waiting to see what the distance is,” Rogers said.
All eyes are on the NCAA championships, but due to social distancing procedures only a few supporters for each athlete will be allowed to attend in person. Rogers’ mother will be coming all the way from Canada, and Rogers’ best friend — whom she hasn’t seen since the last NCAA championships — will be traveling to Oregon to root for her from the stands.
“Knowing how difficult it is to get here during these unprecedented times, like how my mom is crossing the border and has to quarantine when she gets back, it touches my heart that I have so much support,” Rogers said.
After Rogers and Joyner compete on the largest collegiate stage in the country, Rogers will move on to the biggest stage in the world. The Bears are fortunate to have such talented throwers representing them in Oregon and across the world in Tokyo.
Mia Horne covers track and field and cross country. Contact her at [email protected].