Sam Crouser wins his first national title and helps Oregon to the team crown

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: KEVIN HARDEN - Gresham High graduate Sam Crouser takes a victory lap around Hayward Field after winning the javelin at this years NCAA championship meet. Dean Crouser’s voice cracked in and out due to a shaky cell phone connection as he drove home to Gresham from a recent outing with his son, Sam, fly fishing near Grass Valley in north-central Oregon.

“A friend of mine, a cattle rancher, has some 10-acre irrigation ponds loaded with rainbow trout,” said the senior Crouser, an NCAA shot put and discus champion during his years at Oregon in the early ‘80s. “It can get crazy.”

How many trout did the Crousers land during their catch-and-release excursion?

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Dean said. “More than 100. We had some up to 5 pounds. It’s better than if you paid to go to Alaska.”

The Crousers were celebrating Sam’s first NCAA championship in the javelin in helping Oregon to its first national title since 1984. One of the leaders of that Duck squad earlier this month at Hayward Field was Brian Crouser, Sam’s uncle, who was fourth in the javelin after winning as a freshman in 1982.

After winning his third straight Pac-12 championship, Sam came through on his final attempt to win the NCAA crown with a mark of 252 feet, 7 inches, edging runner-up Raymond Dykstra of Kentucky at 251-8.

Sam Crouser had fought through a knee problem all spring.

“I’ve had chronic pain through the season,” the 6-7, 245-pound junior said. “It’s been a hassle dealing with that. But I was feeling good the whole day. My fifth throw was the best of my series, but I threw it too high. I knew I had it in me.”

Crouser — the national record-holder at Gresham High at 255-2 — placed second in the 2012 Olympic trials at 265-1, but was unable to participate in the London Games because he was about 3 feet short of the Olympic qualifying standard.

He’ll skip the U.S. outdoor championships June 26-29 because of the knee.

“The doctor wants me to undergo surgery, but that’s a last resort for me,” says Crouser, who will attempt to become the Pac-12’s first four-time javelin champion next season. “I want to look at rehabbing and different approaches for training to have the knee stay healthy for me.”

Dean Crouser — who has worked with Gresham High throwers over the years, including children Sam and Haley — will help Sam this summer to work on technique.

“Sam is strong enough to throw 290 or 300,” the senior Crouser says. “The gains will come from improving his mechanics, which he can do.”

? Haley Crouser, three-time Gatorade Oregon track and field athlete of the year and national javelin record-holder at 181-2 during her years at Gresham High, struggled through her freshman season at Oregon.

After training for the heptathlon through the fall, Haley focused on the javelin after January, but had a best of only 164-5, finished fourth at the Pac-12 championships, and didn’t qualify for the NCAA meet.

In training for the seven-event discipline, “Haley lost a fair amount of weight, power and explosiveness,” her father says. “She flies on great vertical jump and pure athleticism.

“She got beat up this year. She wants to work hard so that doesn’t happen again.”

Haley will rebound. She has the potential to be an Olympian in both the javelin and heptathlon. She’ll probably focus on the javelin for now and learn from what happened this year.

? Not to be outdone by his uncle and cousin, Ryan Crouser was about to head out for a fishing expedition on the Gulf of Mexico with Texas Longhorns teammate Reese Watson — who tied for seventh in the NCAA meet.

“We’ll fish for whatever bites — sharks, king mackerel, maybe some sailfish, dorado and tarpon,” said Ryan, the former Barlow High standout who earned his second straight NCAA shot put title in Eugene. “We’ll also do a little fly fishing in the coastal bays, for redfish and sea trout.”

Ryan Crouser — son of Mitch Crouser, Dean’s brother and a former discus great himself — soon will shed the walking boot he’s been wearing over his left foot since suffering a Lisfranc sprain on his final throw at Eugene. Ryan won the shot put at 69-3 1/2, short of his season and career best of 70-2 1/4, but wasn’t able to compete in the discus the following two days.

“It was a little frustrating, because I felt like I had a chance at winning the discus, too,” he said.

Alabama freshman Hayden Reed won at 205-10. Crouser’s season best was 209-8, “and I felt I had well over 210 in me,” he said.

Crouser heard a pop as his left foot jammed the toe board on his final shot put attempt. Luckily, nothing was broken, but it put an end to his competitive season. He won’t vie in the U.S. championships at Sacramento, Calif., next week.

“Looking at the bright side, it happened when it wasn’t a world championships or Olympic year,” he said.

As for cousin Sam’s win at Eugene, “It was a gutsy performance, considering he wasn’t healthy on that knee,” Ryan said. “It was really impressive. I was happy for Sam to get the win. He’s one of the hardest-working kids in all of track and field.”

? There were plenty of impressive performances by the Ducks during the NCAA championships, including Sam Crouser, distance phenom Edward Cheserek and surprising freshman Devon Allen, the 110-meter hurdles winner.

But most impressive was Jenna Prandini, who put a cap on a brilliant sophomore campaign by winning the long jump, finishing second in the 200, and placing third in the 100 at the NCAA meet.

The Clovis, Calif., native, named Pac-12 women’s track and field athlete of the year, achieved career bests of 11.11 in the 100, 22.60 in the 200 and 21-6 in the long jump this spring.

She has to, at least, be on the short list for fastest white woman on the planet.

? It was a great season for prep underclass distance runners in the area, led by junior Alexa Efraimson of Battle Ground, Wash., sophomore Ella Donaghu of Grant High and junior Matthew Maton of Bend High.

Efraimson had national prep bests at 1,600 (4:37.85, a national record), 3,000 (9:23.24) and 3,200 meters (9:55.92) on the track and was named Gatorade national prep cross-country runner of the year. Efraimson also has the national season’s best in the mile (4:34.88) by more than eight seconds over her nearest competitor.

Three weeks ago, she finished 10th in the 1,500 at the Diamond League Adidas Grand Prix in New York in 4:07.05, shattering her previous best by nearly 9 seconds in the second-fastest time in U.S. prep history.

It would be cool to see Efraimson go head-to-head with transplanted Portlander Mary Cain — the Bronxville, N.Y., native now living here and training under Alberto Salazar — at 1,500 meters at the USA Junior Championships July 5-6 in Eugene. Cain will run the distance at the U.S. championships in Sacramento next week, but could opt for the 800 at Eugene.

Efraimson has made overtures that she may follow Cain’s lead and skip competing collegiately, going straight to the professional ranks.

At the Portland Track Festival at Lewis & Clark College two weeks ago, Donaghu won the second section of the women’s 1,500 in a state high school record 4:21.35. In May, the Generals star had established a state mark in the 3,000 at 9:24.86, which ranks her fourth on the national season’s list.

Donaghu’s older sister, Piper, also an outstanding runner, just completed her senior season at Grant and will compete for Georgetown next year.

Maton, who just finished his junior year at Summit, never lost to an Oregon runner this year. He was the Class 5A champion in cross country — his time was 23 seconds faster than 6A champ Kyle Thompson of Central Catholic — and at 1,500 and 3,000 meters on the track. Maton ranks second nationally in the 1,500 and third in the 3,000 and will compete in the U.S Junior meet at Eugene next month.

The 6-3, 140-pound Maton finished second in the high school “Dream Mile” at New York on June 14 in 4:03.23 and could challenge Galen Rupp’s state records in the 1,500 (3:45.3) and 3,000 (8:03.67) next spring. Maton has PRs of 3:49.38 and 8:18.66.

His sister, Ashley, also a distance runner, will be a junior at Oregon next year.

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