This feature originally appeared in the 2021 Summer edition of the Cal Sports Quarterly. The Cal Athletics flagship magazine features long-form sports journalism at its finest and provides in-depth coverage of the scholar-athlete experience in Berkeley. Printed copies are mailed four times a year to Bear Backers who give annually at the Bear Club level (currently $600 or more). For more information on how you can receive a printed version of the Cal Sports Quarterly at home, send an email to CalAthleticsFund@berkeley.edu or call (510) 642-2427.
Camryn Rogers is a standout hammer thrower on the Cal track & field team. She has accomplished just about every goal and reached every expectation put on her shoulders throughout her first three years as a Golden Bear.
Rogers is always looking forward to the next accomplishment she can check off the list and constantly raising her goals.
Next on the list: making the women's hammer throw final at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
The Olympic final has been a goal for the Richmond, British Columbia, native for more than two years now, ever since she climbed to the top of the NCAA women's hammer throw ladder.
Rogers has won 10 consecutive NCAA hammer throw competitions, including the 2019 national title when she had a top throw of 71.50 meters (234 feet, 7 inches), the first time she threw past 71 meters in a competition.
After letting her victory sink in and taking a short break for some rest and relaxation attention, Rogers and Cal throws coach Mohammad Saatara turned to forming a training schedule to put Rogers on a course to not only repeat as NCAA champion, but also reach her goal of throwing in the Olympics.
Then, only a few weeks from her first meet of 2020, all competitions shut down due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a crushing moment for Rogers, not only because of the situation, but also the unknowns.
"I remember the day super well because I was at home and training with my team, then I started getting all of these notifications that conferences and schools were pulling out of the (NCAA) indoor championships." Rogers said. "When I saw the NCAA canceled everything, I didn't even know what to think. I tried my best to stay the course and just keep watching."
At the team, Rogers was home in Canada for the weekend, as she knew it would likely be her last chance to visit her family and friends until late August, with the anticipated outdoor NCAA season followed by an Olympics run on the horizon.
Ultimately, Rogers would be in Richmond for the next six months until she was able to return to Berkeley on Sept. 19. Luckily, she was able to train by herself at her track club where she started throwing at age 12.
"I was on my own, and I had never experienced not having access to the individuals and figures I typically see on an everyday basis," Rogers said. "I wasn't able to talk to Coach Mo for months and that was heartbreaking. He is someone I had trained with directly, basically every single day for three years, and all of a sudden I wasn't even able to talk to him."
The next blow to reach Rogers was the cancelation of the 2020 Olympic Games, putting her further into a place of doubt. She was upset, her training was off and she didn't know what to do.
After a couple weeks, Rogers reached out to friend and Olympian Liz Gleadle for help.
"It's postponed, it's not canceled," Gleadle said of the Olympics. "Because of that, it gives you an end goal. It's going to be happening, we just don't know when. We have to keep training so that when the moment comes or we're able to get onto the track again, onto the runway again or into the circle again, we're ready."
That message reset Rogers' entire mindset and marked the moment everything clicked going forward into a new year.
Rogers used the uncertainty of it all to push her training. Before the 2020-21 track & field season started, she looked back at the entirety of the last year.
She thought about every day she was able to go into a gym after three months, able to put that work in again. She thought about how hard other people had to work in order to get her into that position. All of the protocols coaches and staff had to go through just to get the season going.
Rogers returned to Berkeley for the spring 2021 semester and began competing in the hammer for the first time in more than a year. A seminal moment came on April 17, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon, at the first meet inside the new Hayward Field.
"Walking into a place with so much history that now is encompassed by so many amazing fine details was mind-blowing," Rogers said. "I felt my heart racing, my blood was pumping and I wanted to throw right then."
Rogers was coming off top throws of 71.73 meters and 71.16 meters at the first two meets of the '21 season, but when she stepped into the new circle at Hayward, she sent a missile on her first attempt, going 73.09 meters (239-9). The mark put her among the top three all-time in the NCAA and surpassed the Olympic standard of 72.50 meters. More than a year after the cancelations and postponements, Rogers had reached another goal, qualifying for Tokyo.
Rogers and Saatara had a plan in place to get her to that final and ultimate goal on the board for this year, qualifying for the Olympic final in the hammer throw.
"We looked at what it takes to make the final of the Olympic Games," Saatara said. "The main goal we've been working on is being stable, consistently throwing between 72-75 meters. If you can do that, you have a very good possibility of making the final 12. Getting to that stability level is critical for success."
Since reaching the standard in Eugene, Rogers consistently threw over 72 meters as the NCAA season progressed, following the plan and groundwork put in place.
Rogers put an exclamation point on her 2021 collegiate season at the NCAA Championships, back once again at Hayward Field in early June. She broke the collegiate record twice on the way to defending her women's hammer throw national title.
Rogers opened the competition with eighth-best throw in the world this year on her first attempt with a mark of 74.97 meters (245-11). Then, she capped her day and season with her best effort yet: Rogers went 75.52 meters (247-9) on her final attempt to set the NCAA record for the second time and move into the fourth spot on the world leaders list this year.
Rogers' top throw was almost 14 feet farther than the second-place finisher, Shey Taiwo of Ole Miss, and all five of her fair throws would have won the NCAA title.
Rogers has broken her own Cal school record 12 times and became the first Cal athlete, man or woman, to be named to The Bowerman Watch List (national track & field athlete of the year). She is the first Bear to defend a title at the NCAA outdoor championships since Sheila Hudson won two straight triple jump titles from 1987-88.
"Everything that Coach Mo and I have done since NCAAs two years ago - the practices, the mental training, the trust - has all led to this point," Rogers said. "I couldn't be more grateful to be training under such an amazing coach. I had so many fantastic friends and family who traveled from everywhere to support me in Eugene, and it means the world to be able to do this for them as well as for the wonderful people cheering me on at home. I'm so proud to bring the NCAA title home to Cal again and to build off this for the Olympics."