Track Town, USA, by Justin Rogers

The High School national meet was hosted on Hayward Field at the University of Oregon this year.  Track town USA. The best of the best, the top guys in the entire country, each fighting for a top 6 spot to be an All American. Each one trying to prove why they deserve to be there. Having the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage of high school track was a phenomenal experience and to place 7th in the country felt even better, but dealing with the bright lights and the pressure at the top is far from easy for me.

I’ve qualified for the national meet 5 times in my high school career thus far, but this was the first time I’ve had success. Starting with freshman year, I qualified for the freshman division of nationals only to fall short and no height in the competition. Feeling discouraged and upset that I had wasted my time, I vowed that it wouldn’t happen again.  I would come back stronger and better than before. 

Unfortunately COVID ruined my opportunity for redemption. My sophomore year the indoor nationals were cancelled the day before we were set to leave and then that summer the outdoor nationals were canceled as well. I felt like I was being snubbed out of great opportunities and more importantly my chance to prove myself. I trained all through the summer and felt like I was in the best shape of my life and my vaulting was improving. 

But as I cut my training hours during soccer season, the quality of my training fell with it. I struggled to get back on my feet after the season ended and then had a rough indoor season. I would finally get another chance to compete at the national level though at the end of February, when a national meet in Virginia was added at the last minute.  Despite a rough indoor season I went in feeling confident and ready. That soon faded as I cleared my opening bar at 13’9” but I failed to clear my second bar of 14’6”.  My run just didn’t feel good at all, my steps were way off and I couldn’t make anything happen. My performance was a disaster even compared to what I was jumping the previous indoor season. I came in dead last in that meet. Another insult onto my track record of high intensity meets.

One important thing changed though.  I came out of that meet with a new fire, a new intensity. I was tired of losing my focus and confidence when it mattered most and I was ready to change. My coaches and I got together and broke down my form.  We created a training plan to get me back to where I was and farther. Outdoor season came and in my first meet I PR’d for the first time in almost a year at 16’.  I was back. I had the most successful year of my life with an end of season PR of 16’6.25” and once again a national meet qualification. I felt amazing and ready up until 2 weeks before the meet. I then had 2 weeks of horrible practices.  I just couldn’t figure anything out but I refused to fail myself again. I flew out to Oregon, I got to the stadium and I was ready. I was working with a completely new coach and I was in a place I’d never been before surrounded by some of the top guys in the country. Everywhere you looked in the stands were college coaches from across the country. Junior year is huge for college recruiting, so I knew this was a key meet for me. When I stepped up to take my first jump I don’t think I’ve ever been more terrified, but after I cleared it with ease I realized it was my chance. I cleared my first 3 bars 1st attempt each, and cleared 16’ third attempt to tie for 4th place but I got 7th off of the tie breaker of attempts taken. Just off all American status. It gave me the satisfaction of breaking my streak of disappointment in national meets while giving me a new fire to be all American and I can’t wait for my next opportunity to compete at the top level.