Raevyn Rogers found a sense of self during the recent U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. That was the key for the Kinkaid graduate to clinch a spot in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Even though Rogers oftentimes makes running look easy, this year has been anything but. For one, she and her new coach, Pete Julian, were getting used to each other, whether it be the training or best communication methods. She also had a nagging injury she was dealing with that delayed the start to her season, which in turn lessened preparation time, which in an all-important Olympic year, adds more stress. With all of that in mind, the results in the races before the Trials were also not what Rogers was hoping for.
“Mentally, it was just a lot of what I would say is me wanting to be the best me I could be and the results just weren’t showing that,” Rogers said. “And I think it’s always frustrating when you know and you have an inkling of what you’re capable of, and you and your coach are both equally excited and you’re practicing so hard, everything is just going great, and then you’re getting to those opportunities and it’s just not being executed.”
“In track and field, you want to do well, especially in an Olympic year,” she added. “And so, when you’re not producing, it’s just like, ‘What is happening?’ This is not the year that (all) this should happen, you know? So there was a lot of worry, a lot of stress, a lot of emotions just in an uproar, a lot of crying, all of that.”
Rogers is accustomed to the highest levels of success. A three-time Track and Field News All-American during her time at The Kinkaid School, Rogers was USA Track & Field’s Junior Champion in the 800 meters. She followed that up by being a six-time NCAA champion at the University of Oregon, winning the 2017 Bowerman Award - commonly regarded as the most prestigious collegiate honor for outstanding track and field athletes. For these accolades, the University of Oregon took it one step further. Last year, the school unveiled the Hayward Tower, paying tribute to its track and field legacy. Rogers is one of only five former Oregon Ducks to be depicted on the tower and was the only woman selected. It’s an honor Rogers doesn’t take lightly. It also added to her desire and stress to punch her Olympic ticket to Tokyo.
“I always want to make the best impression of myself,” she said. “I want to live up to the fact, the honor of being placed being on the (Hayward) Tower. I wanted to make everybody, all the Hayward fans proud, by making that team.”
When she consulted friends and family about how to deal with the pressure, how to change her season’s trajectory on the track, the common response she received was to be herself, to be Raevyn Rogers.
“Everyone I would talk to around (the Olympic) Trials just kept saying ‘Be Raevyn’ and I’m like, ‘I need a map - like how are we going to do this?’” Rogers said. “Like, I understand you’re saying, ‘Be Raevyn’ but I need specifics!”
Rogers laughed as she said this. The two words “Be Raevyn” may sound simple, but it was more of a sense to remove whatever doubts, stresses, or insecurities that may have occupied her headspace and to just focus on running the way she’s known ever since she was five years old. The deeper meaning of “Be Raevyn” sunk in at the right time, right before the Olympic Trials. And for those who watched her run the women’s 800-meter final on Sunday evening, Rogers appeared laser-focused. She made her push at the end, pulling away from the pack to finish second and make her first Olympics.
“Honestly, (that advice was) all I needed and, once I was able to grasp that and then take it into further context, that’s when I was able to kind of perform the way I did throughout the rounds and then the Final.”
A day later, the accomplishment was still sinking in as she drove home.
“It’s just a tying together of everything happening at the right time, and that was one of those things that I was scared about - was this going to be the right time?” Rogers said. “But it ended up being my time. And it makes sense because I’ve gained so much experience and I stayed (religiously) faithful. I never blamed anybody for things that didn’t go my way. I always tried taking the approach of understanding that’s part of the process and that something is going to benefit from me experiencing what I experience.”
Rogers has no shortage of supporters, including a group of 14 from her family that flew up to Eugene for the Trials.
“It was so good having my family come up for Trials because literally the 14 people that came, they’re honestly all of my extended family and we celebrate everything together,” she said. “They’re so excited. They’re so happy. My mom’s so happy. My grandma was just so happy. For a lot of them, it was their first time seeing the (Hayward) Tower in person and being at that facility, really. So I was just so happy that they were able to experience such a huge moment like that in person.
“I was just driving and I’m like, ‘Wow I actually feel like I’m even more in place because all of the people on the (Hayward) Tower are Olympians. I’m finally an Olympian, so I feel like I fit in!’”
With the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching, Rogers plans to train and prepare the best way she knows how-- to continue unlocking her true self.
“You have to remind yourself what it is that you’re trying to do versus are you comparing yourself to somebody else,” she said. “In a sport like track and field, it’s easy to lose yourself. It’s easy to get down and feel like you’re not good enough. And that’s something that I’ve improved so much on is my confidence because I found confidence in something else - and that’s with being myself and knowing who I am as a runner, as opposed to not feeling like I was good enough based on my performances.”
“I feel like it’s been a huge dream,” Rogers continued. “As a young kid in any sport, the Olympics is something that is glorified as the best thing. The best status that you can reach as an athlete is to be an Olympian. And, of course, growing up, I always wanted to be the best.”
And now, in a career that got its first legs in Houston, Rogers will get that opportunity to be the best on the sport’s biggest stage.