When Raevyn Rogers rounds the Bowerman Curve and heads down Hayward Field’s home straight, her eyes lock on the finish line in a steely glare, her toned arms swing harder, and she increases her already rapid pace.
Off the track, however, things are a little different.
When she walks past the Erb Memorial Union and heads toward one of her classes, her ojos lock on the red brick buildings, her musculosos arms swing casually by her side, and her walk is more leisurely than rápido.
But the focus is still the same—a Spanish professor is just as demanding as a track coach.
“Raevyn Rogers” is a name well known to track-and-field fans. As a middle distance runner for the University of Oregon women’s track-and-field team, Rogers won six individual national titles, 10 All-America honors, and the 2017 Bowerman Award as the nation’s top collegiate female track-and-field athlete. She turned professional following her junior season in 2017. In March of this year, the week before her former teammates competed at the NCAA indoor championships in Texas, she headed to England for the IAAF World Indoor Championships, where she finished fifth in the 800 meters and helped Team USA take home the 4x400 relay title.
But “track star” doesn’t do justice to the many sides of Raevyn Rogers. Since the day she first set foot on the UO campus, when she wasn’t busy sharpening her track skills at Hayward Field, she was in the classroom, working on her two degrees.
Yes, two degrees.
When Rogers graduates in June, she will be an emerging track superstar and a double Duck with degrees in Spanish and art.
Rogers grew up speaking Spanish in Texas, a state where almost one-third of the residents are at least conversant en español. Her Spanish dates back to first grade at the small bilingual magnet school she attended in Houston, though a second language was far from the main attraction when she selected the school.
“I remember my mom telling me that I chose the school I chose because of the slide at the playground,” Rogers laughs. “Like, this slide was way more colorful and pretty, curvy, compared to the other slides.”
Rogers embraced her second language, and it wasn’t long before she was being confused for Cuban or Haitian, such was her fluency. When asked about Raevyn’s heritage, her mother would simply respond, “No, she’s from here, from Texas.”
When Rogers accepted a track-and-field scholarship offer from the UO in 2014, Spanish was an easy choice for a major, and the diversity of the UO Spanish department’s faculty opened her eyes to many of the language’s international nuances.
“It’s always interesting, because they’re from different places and some of them speak different Spanish,” Rogers says. “You may have a teacher that’s more familiar with Spain Spanish and one that is more familiar with Colombian Spanish. I grew up on more of a Colombian-Mexican Spanish, and it’s always interesting having teachers who teach Spain Spanish with different terms and pronouns. The program here portrays Spanish as an art in itself—not just in the language, but in embracing the culture.”
Art. That word again. It comes up frequently when talking to the Duck who once chose a school based on the color and design of its slide. Rogers dabbled in fashion design when she was younger, and after starting school in Eugene, found her passion—at least, away from the track—lay less in sketchbooks and more on canvases.
“When I came to Oregon I went through all these career ‘wants’,” she says. “I wanted to be a dentist. I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. All of this stuff. But then I actually found I’m really good at painting.”
Rogers’ preferred medium is watercolor, and she has painted more than 10 pieces, including three large canvases. While she is currently known for her blazing fast speed around a track, she hopes her ultimate legacy is something that lasts a little longer than her 800-meter personal best time (a collegiate record of 1:59.10, if you’re wondering).
“I want to get my work in art galleries,” Rogers says. “I want to expand my name on the art scene. I joke around, but a goal of mine is definitely to get a piece into MoMA. It’s a huge goal, and we’ll see how realistic it becomes, but that’s something I want to push for.”
The last time Rogers crossed the finish line at Hayward Field was June 2017, when she anchored the victorious 4x400 relay team at the NCAA outdoor championships. That win sealed not only the national title for the Ducks, but also the first Triple Crown—cross country, indoor, and outdoor championships in the same season—in NCAA history.
Rogers is used to operating in a world of noise—the Triple Crown was sealed to the soundtrack of thunderous applause from the packed Hayward grandstands and powerful claps of thunder that shook those stands as a massive storm rolled in—but art is her peaceful escape, the quiet studios of Lawrence Hall a world away from the chaos of the track, despite being only on the other side of campus.
“When I got to Oregon I discovered more of myself in art, and that’s when it emerged and grew,” Rogers says. “There’s a peace that I’ve found in painting.”
The appeal of art isn’t just in the creativity and peace it offers, either. Art critics and track fans have a lot in common, Rogers observes, and she draws strength from learning how to deal with both.
“You can’t care what people think when you’re presenting your art work to a group,” says Rogers. “Just like you can’t let it get too personal if someone’s rooting for you or not rooting for you. At the end of the day, you’re the only one that’s involved and invested in your own craft. I’m over here putting hard work into my paintings and believing my paintings are going to be great, no matter what anyone thinks. It’s the same with track—if I have a bad race it doesn’t mean I’m not putting in hard work. I’ve definitely become a little bit more relaxed and carefree in some areas. Life’s too short to be thinking about and caring about what people have to say about you.”
Spring 2018 Track Season Preview
The University of Oregon women’s track-and-field team won the Triple Crown in 2017, with the indoor and outdoor titles spearheaded by the powerhouse trio of juniors Raevyn Rogers, Deajah Stevens, and Hannah Cunliffe . . . all of whom then turned pro.
So, a drop in form was to be expected in 2018—though “drop” is a relative term when you’re talking about the Ducks.
Although the fifth-place finish at the NCAA indoor championships in March was the team’s worst showing since 2009, they still won the 800-meter title for the third year in a row, and the distance medley relay title, with the fourth-fastest time in collegiate history.
While Rogers, Stevens, and Cunliffe are not around to lead the team through the outdoor season, the Ducks boast a roster that includes eight-time All-American and 2016 Olympian Ariana Washington, six-time All-American Lilli Burdon, five-time All-American Katie Rainsberger, five-time All-American Brooke Feldmeier, five-time All-American Makenzie Dunmore, four-time All-American Alli Cash, and two-time All-American ChaQuinn Cook.
The Men of Oregon, who finished tied for 13th in the NCAA indoor championships, are led this spring by middle distance runners Sam Prakel, Reed Brown, Mick Stanovsek, and James West, and newcomers Joseph Anderson (2017 Pan American Championships 110-meter hurdles bronze medalist), Jared Briere (the nation’s No. 1-ranked hammer thrower out of high school), and Cooper Teare (California 3,200-meter state champion and Pac-12 Cross-Country Freshman of the Year).
Key Spring Meets
April 7 | Eugene PEPSI TEAM INVITATIONAL
May 4 | Eugene OREGON TWILIGHT
May 12–13 | Stanford, Cal. PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIPS
June 6–9 | Eugene NCAA OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
—By Damian Foley, University Communications