Raevyn Rogers was back in Eugene on Tuesday for a personal tour of renovated Hayward Field.
It’s been a bit longer, however, since she returned to Oregon.
The former Ducks’ track star — whose silhouette adorns the outside of the new 10-story-tall, Olympic torch-shaped tower at Hayward Field — moved to Portland on June 5 to join a training group led by former Nike Oregon Project assistant coach Pete Julian.
It’s a major career move for Rogers, 23, who had been based in Philadelphia and coached by Derek Thompson ever since leaving Oregon in the summer of 2017 after her junior season, forming a partnership that resulted in an 800-meter silver medal at the World Athletics Outdoor Track & Field Championship meet last fall in Doha, Qatar.
"Taking a risk and jumping out on faith," Rogers said.
Rogers joins a training group that includes former Oregon teammate Jessica Hull, Donavan Brazier, Craig Engels, German women’s star Konstanze Klosterhalfen, as well as other former members of the NOP, which was shutdown last October when head coach Alberto Salazar was given a four-year ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Yesterday was one of the most surreal Moments I’ve ever experienced in my life. Thank you so much to @uoregon @OregonTF and everyone that made this possible. #HaywardMagic pic.twitter.com/bxxP7xaIjN— Raevyn Rogers (@TheROYALlife21) July 8, 2020
In fact, it was while watching Brazier rip through his 2019 season en route to a U.S. 800 title, a world outdoor gold medal and an American record of 1 minute, 42.34 seconds that Rogers first pondered a move to Portland.
"What struck my curiosity was seeing how well Pete did with Donavan," Rogers said. "I know Donavan and to see him run at USAs the way he ran, he’s never run like that before. I could tell that something was different."
Like Rogers, Brazier is just 23 and though supremely gifted, he has appeared to also take to Julian’s coaching. Rogers was intrigued enough to move across the country and start something new.
"I’m not saying ‘Oh, I want to be like Donavan,’" Rogers said. "It’s just there’s something, whether it’s resources, whether it’s structure, whatever it is that was helping Donavan run confident, I wanted a part of that.
"Gaining confidence is not an easy thing because there’s a lot of things that go into a confident mindset for an athlete. That’s what I saw in Donavan when he ran. You could tell he bought into everything that he was doing because he ran that way. That’s what I hope to get from this."
Despite wanting more, it wasn’t as if Rogers was struggling with success as a professional.
The five-time NCAA indoor/outdoor 800 champion and 2017 women’s winner of The Bowerman Award, Rogers won a gold medal in the 4x400 relay for the United States at the 2018 World Indoor Championships and lowered her outdoor personal-best to 1:57.69 during a 2018 Diamond League meet in Monaco. Then came her silver-medal performance in Doha last fall when she moved from seventh to second over the final 100 meters.
It wasn’t enough to keep her in Philadelphia with a training group that also included American record holder Ajee Wilson as well as a recent addition in former Duck Phyllis Francis. Francis, an Olympic 4x400 gold medalist and 2017 world champion in the 400, joined the group over the winter after amicably splitting with longtime coach Vince Anderson and moving from College Station, Texas.
"After a while, you just need a change," Francis told Track & Field News earlier this month. "Something to generate new muscle memory, because you’re so used to doing the same thing over and over again. It’s good to challenge your body again. I wanted to try something new."
Rogers can relate, though she admitted the structure of Julian’s group does have a familiar collegiate feel to it.
"There was structure in my last group but it wasn’t as structured as this group is where you have appointments and everything is set up already," said Rogers, who made her season debut of sorts last Friday when she paced an 800 race at Jesuit High School in Portland during a three-event pop-up meet against members of Eugene’s Oregon Track Club Elite.
"It was tough," Rogers said. "Before I moved out here I hadn’t been on a track in three months. I had been out in Philly just running on some trails and doing some hills. Getting back on the track was an adjustment. Knocking the dust off and competing is a whole other adjustment."
In Portland she has a familiar face in Hull, who has thrived under Julian’s tutelage in her one season has a professional. Before the season was essentially shut down by the coronavirus, Hull had already secured a spot in the 2020 Olympics by winning the Australian 5,000 title earlier this spring. Rogers also previously worked with the team’s physical therapist and strength coach David McHenry during her days as a Duck.
As Rogers has adjusted to life back in the Pacific Northwest, she credits Julian with keeping her focused and reassured that her move will pay off.
"It hasn’t been arrogance," Rogers said. "He’s just been genuine and really supportive. … Sometimes fear is associated with taking risks, but this is just me making a decision that I feel is better for me at this time in my career."
Follow Chris Hansen on Twitter @chansen_RG or email at email@example.com. For more sports coverage, visit registerguard.com. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.