Sports

Rogers maintaining vision in challenging times

By Don Fennell

Published 2:38 PDT, Fri June 5, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

Richard Collier had an eye for talent. And in Camryn Rogers, he saw a champion.

Even before the precocious sixth grader picked up the metal ball and steel wire contraption and successfully completed her first hammer throw, Collier could see the potential. The uncanny vision of the legendary former Richmond Kajaks’ track and field coach was soon proven right away when she won her first competition mere months after joining the club.

“I loved hammer right away,” says Rogers, who celebrates her 21st birthday this week.

On track to become one of Canada’s all-time greats, the young Richmondite’s relaxed, affable nature opposes an extraordinary inner steel-like determination. Once she steps into the throwing circle, it’s all business. Practice is the same; always striving to improve.

Typical of champions, Rogers thinks big. But it’s her willingness to learn, armed with a quiet confidence, passion and commitment to succeed, that enables her to routinely better her marks. Champions, it has been said, are made through adversity. Regardless of the mark, Rogers uses every practice and event to gain greater self-knowledge. She absorbs feedback like a sponge.

“I originally heard about Camryn from Richard and Garrett Collier (her coaches with the Kajaks),” explains Mohamed Saatara, who has had the privilege of coaching Rogers for the past two seasons at the University of California-Berkeley. “They told me they were coaching a talented young woman who I should keep an eye on.”

The first time he saw Rogers throw was on a video of her winning one of the many competitions she’s topped over the years.

“My first impression was ‘she can throw!’ This is not a kid who’s mechanically executing positions and hoping, this is a supremely-talented athlete who can perform at the highest levels. The type of athlete you don’t see too often.”

Rogers has only reinforced Saatara’s observations after three seasons at Cal. In 2018, her freshman year wearing the Bears’ blue and gold, Rogers recorded a 13th-place finish and just missed qualifying for the NCAA national championships with a throw of 61.31 metres at the west preliminaries. This coincided with a bronze-medal performance at the Pac-12 championship with a mark of 64.25 metres, and a school and freshman record—and also the Canadian U20 record—in the hammer throw of 65.61 metres at the Brutus Hamilton Challenge.

Last year was even more impressive as Rogers became NCAA champion, a first team All-American, and recorded the seventh-best hammer throw in NCAA history at 71.50 metres. It was the best mark in the NCAA in 2019, ranking second in Pac-12 history and first in the Cal record books.

In her final two years competing as a high schooler in 2016 and 2017, the McMath student (from where she graduated with honours while receiving magna cum laude in History 12) won back-to-back gold in the shot put and hammer throw events. With her club team, the Kajaks, she won gold in the hammer at the prestigious Oregon Relays meet three consecutive years. She still holds the meet record.

Saatara believes the best is yet to come.

“Camryn is a fierce competitor, and has an enormous amount of untapped potential,” says Saatara, in his seventh year as throws coach at Cal. “She’s been able to take advantage of her opportunities and overcome obstacles that would have derailed others. She has also become a student of the sport. I believe she will be able to achieve the highest standards of hammer throwing before all is said and done.”

Rogers has a unique ability to remain positive in the face of adversity—even a global pandemic.

“This will be the first summer in eight years I won’t be competing, traveling or in school,” she notes. “My mom, coach Mo and coach Garrett are taking things one step at a time, and being open to changing conditions.

Training is going well. I’m extremely lucky to have access to facilities and equipment and being able to keep in contact with my coaches makes things a lot easier and less stressful. They have been so supportive through this whole situation.”

Like every step of her journey thus far, Rogers sees it as an opportunity to continue to learn and fine-tune her technique.

“One thing that has really helped me the past two months also ties in with what I miss most about the old normal—my teammates and friends,” she says. “I truly did not realize how much time I spent with them until I wasn’t in that environment anymore. When you train, study and travel with a group of people for 20-plus hours every week they become so much more than just teammates or friends. They become family and a major support network. Taking the time to call them and catch us has made a huge difference in my day-to-day life.”

As always, Rogers also points to her mom Shari as a constant source of inspiration.

“My mom has been the biggest supporter through it all, taking everything in stride and being a beacon of positivity for me. I have found so much strength in my support system. It has made me so thankful to be surrounded by like-minded people who do not think of the negatives of the situation but instead preparing for a better future.”

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