The Gresham senior heads into Saturdays final day at state track two points from becoming the high scorer in big-school history

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Gresham senior Haley Crouser will compete in three events during this weekends state track meet despite a season slowed by injury. She won her fourth straight state title in the javelin Friday and is seeded second in the shot put and eighth in the discus for Saturday. Gresham senior Haley Crouser has always performed well on the big stage, and she expects no different this weekend at Hayward Field as she wraps up her prep career while operating at less than full strength.

Crouser put together a standout 2012 season that including setting the national high school record in the javelin, earning high-score honors at the state meet and winning the javelin at the U.S. Junior Championships. Not to mention making the finals in the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

She had been on the college recruiting radar for a long time, but finished the summer with her choice of top schools. She made visits to UCLA and Texas A&M before deciding to stay closer to home, joining her older brother Sam at the University of Oregon.

“She had some crazy options, but Oregon is so strong with its track and field program,” her father Dean says. “Hayward Field is a different place — you get an experience there that you won’t get anywhere else.”

“All the schools had so much to offer, but Oregon was the best fit for me,” Haley says. “I’ve wanted to go there since I was younger.”

Just when everything seemed to be falling in place Haley hit a hiccup.

For the first time in her athletic career she was facing something more serious than a sprained ankle. Haley entered the season with a bone spur on her right big toe that forced her to fight through pain and adjust her training schedule. It also led to strains in her back, hamstrings and Achilles tendon.

“It started with her toe and has just moved its way up,” her mother Molly says. “She’s a happy, positive person. She knows she will be better — she just has to be patient.”

Haley is expected to undergo surgery to remove the bone spur soon after the state meet.

“I’ve just had to take it all in stride and figure out how to deal with it,” Haley said.

At this year’s district meet, she decided to pass on the jumping-style events that would put greater stress on her injuries. Instead focusing on the throws — winning all three.

That will be more than enough to keep her busy this weekend at Hayward Field where she needs to score 12 points to become the highest scoring athlete in big-school state history. According to her qualifying marks, Haley is slated to score 19 points.

“That’s my main goal for this meet,” Haley says. “After all these years being able to see the payoff at the end is big for me.”

The highlight of her state-meet career came last season when she came into the high hurdles with the fourth-best qualifying time. But she didn’t have her sights set on a middle-of-the-pack finish. In prelims she dropped nearly half-a-second from her personal best to gain one of the premier inside lanes for Saturday’s final.

“After that I knew anything was possible,” Haley says.

She stepped into the starting blocks alongside Jesuit senior Mackenzie Mathews. The gun sounded and the two pounced, clearing hurdles side-by-side while the grandstands roared approval for the closest battle of the weekend.

“It was so intense, just super close the whole way,” Haley says. “I remember being at the finish line and waiting for the names to go up on the scoreboard. When I saw mine flash up there in first place I was super excited.”

She had won by .03 hundredths.

Haley knew something big awaited her when she was 9 years old throwing a hunk of plastic around. It was at that young age that she won her first major title in the turbo javelin (a plastic rocket-shaped spear) at an age-group national meet.

“That always sticks in my mind as when it all got started,” Haley says. “It’s the first time I realized this could be something special.”

Several years later, as a fifth-grader at Dexter McCarty, it was her middle-school coach Kelly Holding who saw the full spectrum of her athletic talent. Soon she was adding the long jump and hurdle races into her regular throwing routine.

“You don’t see many who win state in the shot put, walk across the track and win the hurdles, and oh by the way, hold the national record in the javelin,” Dean says. “What she brings to the table is very rare.”

Her talents extend beyond the track, as she has been a mainstay along the frontline in Gresham’s elite volleyball program, earning second-team all-state honors as a senior.

The University of Oregon plans to utilize her javelin ability to the fullest, but is also exploring options of putting Haley into the heptathlon, Dean says.

But before the Crousers look ahead too far into the future, they are planning one more summer together with fishing trips on the Columbia River and a week in a cabin on a lake in Central Oregon — a family tradition that has been going for more than 20 years.

“We’ve had so many great hours out fishing and camping. Times where it’s 100 degrees out, and the kids hop out of the boat to go swimming — those are the days I’ll remember most,” Dean says. “It’s a big turning of the page, but that’s life and I couldn’t enjoy it any more than I have.”

“I’m sure there will be a lot of tears when September rolls around. But I’m happy to have her close — putting her on a plane to Texas or Los Angeles would have been hard,” Molly says.

“I take it for granted sometimes, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am without them,” Haley says.

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