Crouser story needs no spin

On Sports

This was going to be the season of all seasons in Oregon high school track and field for Ryan Crouser. The Barlow High senior was poised for a run at the national record in the shot put (Michael Carter, Dallas, 81-3 1/2 in 1969) and discus (Niklas Arrhenius, Orem, Utah, 234-1 in 2001). Injuries have taken care of that. After dealing with groin and back issues early this spring, Crouser tore his right adductor muscle (thigh) while throwing the javelin 2 1/2 weeks ago. Crouser will be at Hayward Field this weekend, competing in the shot put and discus as he tries to help the Bruins claim the Class 6A championship. Last weekend, the 6-7, 235-pound Crouser stood in the ring and —without taking his normal spin approach —won the Mount Hood Conference title in the shot (55-6 1/2) and discus (156-6). Not bad, until you consider Crouser threw the shot a national indoor record 77-2 3/4 in February and improved his own state record in the discus to 213-7 at Barlow on April 13. Crouser might still win both events this weekend. His top competitor in the shot is Oregon City’s Greg Skipper, with a best of 58-11. The next-best thrower in the discus is Marshfield’s Dalton Milburn at 163-2. “I’m going to try to up my marks a little bit from districts, but I’m not going to spin,” says Crouser, who is headed for the University of Texas. “Mostly, I’ll just try not to reinjure (the thigh). It’s still pretty sore.” Not surprising. “It takes four weeks of nothing to recover from that type of injury,” Barlow coach David Kilian says. You can imagine how much of a comedown it is for Crouser, who was lined up to make history this spring. “It’s been a frustrating year,” he says. “You always look forward to your senior season. It’s not turned out how I’d hoped.” Last May, Crouser broke his left foot in early May and was unable to compete at state. That has fully recovered, and when he unleashed his monster throw at Pocatello, Idaho, in early February, he was on track to make a run at Carter’s long-standing U.S. standard. “My training coming off of indoors was at a real high level,” he says. “When I threw 77, I wasn’t even on peak. I was training through that meet. I was thinking I was looking really good. My training was better than it had ever been. “But everything’s sort of fallen apart this outdoor season. Never got the chance to get the season rolling.” After recovering from his groin and back injuries, Crouser threw 213-7 in the discus at Barlow, then launched the shot 72-7 1/2 at the Centennial Invitational on April 25, climbing to No. 7 on the all-time U.S. outdoors list. Then came the thigh injury. “Ryan had such a great Centennial performance, and then the wind comes out of his sails,” Kilian says. “He’s doing really well with it, though. “When he broke his foot last year, he was pretty pissed, and rightfully so. But he grew through that. It did a lot for his character-building. When it happened this year, it wasn’t like it was the first time. He knew how to handle it better.” Truth be told, Crouser probably would have shut it down if not for Barlow’s team title hopes. “I think I’d still have competed,” he says, “but there’s more motivation with the team race. I want to try to support the team as much as I can. The last two years we’ve finished second and were really close both years. It would be great to get a win our senior year.” “It was really tough that first week after the injury, because Ryan knows what he was capable of doing,” says his father, Mitch Crouser, who helps coach the Bruin throwers. “Now he has kind of accepted it — do as well as you can to help the team score some points.” The senior Crouser, who was fourth in the discus at the 1984 Olympic trials, has provided important moral support for his son. “Dad has been through similar things,” Ryan says. “He tore his groin training for the Olympic trials. He knows what I’m going through.” Crouser was going to put the state shot and discus records out of reach, maybe forever. The second-best shot mark on the big-school list is 67-11 by South Eugene’s Chris Sprague in 1998. Ryan’s cousin, Sam, set the previous state discus record of 205-10 last year for Gresham. Third on the list is Sprague’s Brent Patera at 197-11 in 1985. Crouser has kept his priorities straight. He’ll graduate next month with a 4.0 grade-point average. “How many kids have that athletic talent and are a 4-point student?” Kilian asks. “He does so many amazing things. Earlier in the year, there was a fight in the hall. He literally picked both guys up and broke it up. “He helps mentor some of our younger throwers. He has worked a ton with Casey Leabo, our second-best thrower. He makes us a better track team, through what he does at practice with the other kids.” Crouser says his injuries have affirmed a valuable lesson. “I’ve tried to stay really focused on school,” says Crouser, who will major in engineering at Texas. “Injuries show you how fast athletics can end. You have your senior year all planned for what you’re going to throw, and then — poof! — it’s gone. “You know you have to have the academics, anyway. None of my injuries have been very major, but it shows how you can lose a whole season. You have something to fall back on the rest of your life.” The Crousers, Ryan and Mitch, are tinkering with Ryan’s no-spin technique this week to see if he can squeeze some extra inches and feet on his throws. At this point, it’s about helping the team. “He’ll come through,” Barlow sprinter Arthur Delaney says. “I know he will. Winning is going to be hard, but he’s going to score some points for us.” By just being there, competing for his school, Crouser will be adding a final, important part of his legacy there. Character combined with talent can take a kid a long way.