I’m betting that you don’t know the precise date you first shot a basketball, swung a baseball bat or kicked a football. I know I don’t.
But Camryn Rogers, a sophomore on Cal’s track and field team, remembers exactly when she first was exposed to the hammer throw.
While growing up in Richmond, B.C., a suburb of Vancouver, Canada, Rogers listened as her mother, Shari, repeatedly encouraged her to give the sport a try.
“My mom is a hair dresser and she knows a number of people in the (local) track club,” Rogers said, “For a long time people were saying, `Hey, come out. Try this, try that.’ “
Rogers nodded politely, but never made it out to the track.
“Then one random day … Jan. 5, 2012,” she said, stopping mid-sentence to explain why that date has stayed with her.
“I feel like it was the beginning of where everything kind of changed in my life,” said Rogers, who was 12 1/2 years old at the time. “It’s had such an impact on everything that I’ve done.
“I wouldn’t be here.”
Where Rogers, 19, finds herself these days, is ranked No. 3 among the nation’s collegiate hammer throwers, with a school-record best of 224 feet, 3 inches.
That also happens to be the No. 3 mark in the Pac-12. So the hammer competition at the Pac-12 Championships this weekend at Tucson, Arizona, will be ferocious.
The top entry for Sunday’s event is Arizona State’s Beatrice Llano, whose best of 234-4 is also a Norwegian national record. Next is UCLA’s Alyssa Wilson at 231-9.
“That makes it an even more exciting competition,” Rogers said. “You have these absolutely incredible throwers, Alyssa and Beatrice. The kind of environment that’s going to be in the circle, it’s going to be almost overwhelming in the best way possible.”
Rogers isn’t the favorite, but she beat Wilson last summer to capture the IAAF U20 World Championships in Finland. “She’s super sweet and an absolute monster in the circle,” Rogers said of Wilson. “I can’t wait to see her again.”
She beat Llano in the weight throw at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor championships in February.
Rogers’ resume is impressive. She captured the 2017 Pan American U20 title in Peru, and holds Canadian records in youth, junior and under-23 divisions. She broke the Cal record as a freshman last season, and has eclipsed it three more times this spring.
“She is a supremely talented athlete,” Cal throws coach Mohamad Saatara explained. “Very good muscle structure, athletically very smart, she has a good feel for the event and she’s a very explosive athlete.”
The hammer throw is a technical event that rewards experience, so Rogers hopes to continue competing indefinitely. She is friendly with Sultana Frizell, who five years ago set the Canadian national record of 248-5.
That’s 24 feet farther than Rogers’ best, but someday, maybe?
“You always aim for those levels where you start to get more power, more speed, more technical stability,” she said. “If that’s where the road is headed, I’m excited for that.”
She envisioned none of this on that January day seven years ago.
“I decided 15 minutes before the practice started to go out and see what it was about,” Rogers recalled. “I was dumbfounded.”
Rogers had never seen the hammer throw. Didn’t know what the event was called. Had no idea what to make of the unusual implement.
“What is this?” she thought at the time. “It just looked so interesting. I remember just watching as they were throwing, and just going, `Wow, this is different.’ But it looked like so much fun. And I wanted to try it.”
And with that random decision, the path of Camryn Rogers’ life was altered.
“Totally,” said Shari Rogers, her mom, who will travel to Tucson to watch the Pac-12 hammer throw competition on Mother’s Day. “I remember when we went down for her official visit, (coach) Tony Sandoval told Camryn, `If you come to this school, it's going to change your life.’
“And here we are in 2019 and she’s going to this amazing university on a scholarship, setting goals, achieving goals.”
Camryn said she cannot imagine what she might be doing if she’d gone down another path. “It’s hard to know because it’s changed the trajectory of my life in so many ways,” she said.
College was always going to be part of her future, but Cal was not in her sights. Since coming to Berkeley, she has changed her career goal from forensic psychiatrist to environmental law.
“Being here opened me up to so many new and different fields of interest that I really never even considered,” Rogers said. “I’m so happy that it did.”
-- Cover photo by Kelley Cox, KLC Fotos