Rogers, Ihemeje advance at Oregon22
EUGENE, Ore. — Emmanuel Ihemeje started fast. Raevyn Rogers finished strong. Both are moving on at the World Athletics Championships.
Both Rogers and Ihemeje made their Oregon22 debuts Thursday at Hayward Field. Rogers moved up from fifth to first in the final 100 meters of her 800-meter heat, advancing to Friday's semifinals. Ihemeje matched his season best on his first attempt of the triple jump, and nearly matched his outdoor PR on his third attempt to reach Saturday's event final.
Rogers, the 10-time all-American at Oregon between 2015-17, took the first step toward her second World Championships medal, after claiming silver in Doha three years ago. Both Rogers and Ihemeje, a three-time NCAA champion who still has eligibility remaining with the Ducks, participated in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and are now back on home turf for this year's World Championships.
"It feels good to be home," said Ihemeje, who competes for Italy. "Like I always say, this is my comfort zone."
Ihemeje sure looked comfortable from the get-go Thursday, soaring 17.03 meters or 55 feet, 10-5 inches as the first athlete in his flight of the triple jump. That was just two centimeters shy of qualifying Ihemeje automatically for the final, and he passed on his second attempt before taking a third jump just to be safe, and flying 17.13, or 56-2.5.
"All year long we've been working for these World Championships," said Ihemeje, whose streak of three straight NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor titles ended when he finished second outdoors this spring. "We decided to peak at this World Championships — not NCAAs, not trials. This was our main goal. Of course it still hurts me, to be honest, that I lost at nationals. But hey, gotta focus on the prize."
Rogers, whose image graces the Hayward Field tower, showed the heart that made her one of the immortals in UO track and field history. She was jostled twice during her 800 heat, the second time with about 200 meters to go and causing her to fall a couple of strides behind the lead pack of four.
The top three would advance automatically. Rogers didn't take any chances, going wide off the final turn and passing all four women in front of her, the last one at the tape for a heat victory in 2:01.36.
"It was definitely physical," Rogers said. "There was a couple times in the race where I really had to, just, mentally — with things like that, you can't let it affect you. Even though physically it does take your legs or it does impede you, which kind of hurts, I had to snap into it. Let the adrenalin carry me and just really be like, you're OK, we're still on path."
Did the late surge leave Rogers with enough energy for Friday's semifinals?
"Yeah — I'm standing up, right?" she said with a laugh. "That tells you something right there. I was more so frustrated, because it's kind of frustrating when that happens. But you know, it's expected."
Rogers attended earlier sessions of Oregon22. Friends and teammates have been sure to point out her image on the Hayward Field tower when they pass it, to her chagrin. But her pride at competing in Eugene is palpable.
"It's so dear to me, and to compete in front of this crowd, who has so much support for us," Rogers said. "Going from Qatar for Worlds and then Tokyo, it feels great to be back in this type of environment."
Ihemeje called Oregon22 "the biggest stage I've ever competed on my whole career," despite having finished 11th in the Tokyo Olympics. Those games were conducted with minimal attendance due to the pandemic, not the preferred atmosphere for someone like Ihemeje who feeds off the crowd.
"I'm a fan guy," he said. "The more you give energy, the more I'm turned in."
While Rogers will be back in action for her semifinal Friday — and then potentially Sunday's final — Ihemeje now has a day off before Saturday's triple jump final.
"I haven't done anything," he said. "This is just, like, a little step. But I'm getting ready to get a bigger step."