Crouser closing out a record-breaking season
Ryan Crouser could be on a collision course with the collegiate record in the shot put.
And the big occasion could happen in his home state.
The Texas junior and Barlow High grad will be the heavy favorite during the NCAA track & field championships June 11-14 at Eugene's Hayward Field.
Crouser will come in on a high after breaking the 70-foot barrier for the first time in the Big 12 Championships at Lubbock, Texas, May 17.
The 21-year-old Crouser threw 70-2 1/2 to better his own school record and establish a Big 12 meet record. He became the 14th American ever to top 70 feet and moved into third place on the 2014 world outdoor list.
The collegiate standard is held by UCLA's John Godina -- 72-2 1/4 set in 1995. A two-foot personal record would be necessary, but
"At this point in the season, I'm doing some speed training," Crouser says. "That always seems to give me a little boost. School's over. I can concentrate fully on preparation.
"It's not a guarantee. Nothing in track is. But if things go how I'm hoping, (a collegiate record) is a possibility."
The 6-7, 270-pound Crouser also set a Big 12 meet record while winning the discus with a PR throw of 209-9, which ranks him fifth among collegians this season.
"That's a double that's been achieved only a couple of times in the history of U.S. track and field," says Ryan's uncle, Dean, a former NCAA shot put and discus champion at Oregon. "But I'm not surprised. I always thought he could do it, that he was unusual and special. And he's only skimming the surface of his potential in the discus."
Ryan Crouser has spent more time working on the shot put through his college career. But his work in the discus is beginning to pay dividends, too.
"The discus is a secondary event with how well my shot's going, but I think I can be really competitive in it" at the NCAA meet, Crouser says. "With how much power I have in the shot, if I can get that translated to the discus, that thing will fly.
"It will be exciting at NCAAs. A lot of those guys throw the discus full-time. Their marks show relatively what they do after training for just discus. My mark might not show all I have the potential to throw. If everything went real well, I could throw a really long way and contend with any of those guys."
Crouser was thrilled to get 70 feet on his sixth and final throw at Lubbock.
"It felt really good," he says. "I've been in the 69s a few times this year, so I've been right on the doorstep. It's been a reachable mark for over a year. To finally get it means a lot. I put in a lot of work to get there. Now I'm looking forward to nationals and hoping for a little more."
As a senior at Barlow, Crouser set the national high school indoor shot put record of 77-2 3/4 and established a national mark outdoors in the discus with a throw of 237-6. His performance in the latter event at Lubbock was more than seven feet farther than his previous best at Texas.
"I was really happy to get that mark," he says. "With the shot, a lot of it is you can get in and try and kill it and it's going to go far. Discus is more about timing. I've been frustrated with it, and when that happens, it tends to be a downward spiral. I've been in college a few years now, and I've learned to be more patient, not force it and let it happen."
In the stands at Lubbock to watch Ryan's dynamic double was his father, Mitch Crouser, who was fourth in the 1984 Olympic trials in the discus and owned a PR of 220-6.
"I wasn't planning on going, but at the last moment decided to go," the senior Crouser says. "I'm so glad I was there to see it. It was a great weekend."
As a sophomore in last year's NCAA meet at Eugene, Ryan Crouser won the NCAA shot put at 66-7 3/4, more than 3 1/2 feet over runner-up Jonathan Jones of Buffalo. Crouser was eighth in the discus at 194-3.
Crouser has taken a quantum leap in both events for several reasons:
Good health. After missing most of his freshman season at Texas due to illness and a torn ligament in his throwing hand, he has been relatively healthy for most of the last two seasons.
School. Crouser majored in engineering his first two years, then switched over to economics at the start of this school year. Make no mistake, Crouser is a true student-athlete. He left engineering with a 3.1 grade-point average and has since brought it up to 3.3.
"Last year was a struggle academically for me," he says. "It was really a heavy academic load. I'm in econ now with essentially a business minor. If everything goes according to plan, I'll graduate in five years with a masters in finance."
Physical maturity. Crouser has gained 30 pounds since he started school at Texas. He has grown into his once-lanky frame and has developed technique that was always good from a young age, thanks in no small part to the tutelage of his father and his uncle Dean.
There will be a reunion of cousins during the NCAA western regional qualifier at Fayetteville, Ark., on May 29-30. Dean's offspring are both at Oregon -- Sam, a junior who is a three-time Pac-12 javelin champion, and Haley, a freshman who finished fourth in the Pac-12 women's javelin this spring.
Then it will be on to the NCAA meet.
"I'm really happy it's in Eugene," Ryan says. "Eugene is a great place to compete, and it's fun to go home and perform in front of friends and family. I've thrown there plenty of times. I've got a good feeling for everything there, and the atmosphere there is tough to match in the U.S."
World-class shot putters typically hit their peak in the late 20s. In the discus, it's usually around 30. Crouser -- who has the 2016 Olympic Games in his sights -- could be on the world scene in both events for the next decade.
"The rest of the county better hope he doesn't figure out the discus, because he's going to," Dean Crouser says. "You're moving into uncharted territory. I don't think there's every been anyone quite like him -- with the great big, tall levers along with the mechanics. He has the horsepower now. And he loves to compete. He typically does his best under pressure. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch his development over the next few years."