Most people know him as one of the top high school shot put and discus throwers in the U.S. But did you know that Ryan Crouser:
- Used to be a sprinter and jumper?
- Is in line to be his class valedictorian?
- Was a standout basketball player before breaking his foot?
- Prefers to sleep in until at least 11 a.m. on meet days?
- Routinely drinks 64 ounces of orange juice the morning of meets (his personal record is 64 ounces in 45 minutes)?
- And that after big meets, Ryan knows his dad, Mitch, will provide him with a "terrible" meal?
"It's not planned or anything like that. It just seems that we always end up with a lousy meal," said Ryan. "We just always end up with terrible food. When I won nationals as a sophomore, I ended up with a day-old sandwich that had been sat on and smashed in the car. The next day, I won the discus and we ended up in a weird place and had a horrible dinner."
That being the case, Ryan and Mitch might have had one of their worst meals ever following Ryan's colossal record-setting throws at the 33rd Simplot Games last weekend. Ryan not only broke Brent Noon's 21-year-old U.S. Indoor record of 74 feet, 11 inches, but he broke it three times within his six throws at the competition. And on his final throw, he obliterated the record by reaching 77-2.75.
"It was great," Ryan said of his record. "The crowd (between 3,000 and 4,000) really got into it. It got pretty loud. They all went crazy (when he broke his own record)."
It marked only the second time in the history of the event that a U.S. prep had tossed a 12-pound shot put more than 77 feet. The other is U.S. Outdoor record holder Michael Carter, who in a June meet in 1979, reached 81-3.
Ryan, a senior at Barlow (Gresham, Ore.)
, said he had one goal in mind for Simplot, his final indoor track meet of the season: break Noon's indoor record. Two days before the meet, the 6-7, 240-pound Ryan said he felt confident the record would fall in Pocatello, Idaho.
"I've been training hard and putting in a lot of time on my technique and it feels like things are coming together," said Ryan, who will attend the University of Texas in the fall. "It was my last indoor meet of the season and I wanted the indoor record. It's one of my two major goals this year."
The other? Carter's outdoor mark.GOOD START IN 2011
Despite passing on next month's Indoor Nationals in New York, Ryan's abbreviated indoor season - only three meets - is likely to rank among track and field's greatest indoor seasons, albeit short by most standards.
Earlier this year, in a meet held at Boise State, Ryan shattered the U.S. prep indoor record by throwing a 16-pound shot 63-11. The previous record of 60-7 1/4 was set in 1984 by Arnold Campbell of Bossier City, La. It was Ryan's first meet - indoor or outdoor - since breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot last May.
That was followed by the Husky Invitational at the University of Washington where he put the shot 74-5, just six inches behind Noon's former mark.
So, in less than a month, Ryan has gained distance and headline after headline. Regardless of his many past victories, a 3-foot improvement is monumental. Ryan credits a lot of the improvement to three things brought on by the foot injury and his May 20 surgery that required implanting a 2-plus inch metal screw into his foot.
"I had a stress fracture for a couple of weeks, but kept training," Ryan said. "I was turning and throwing in practice and bone snapped. I didn't hear it, but knew instantly with my back-in drive it was hurt. I mean there was around 400 pounds force driving forward ... my whole side of my foot collapsed and all the energy was released."
It took more than two weeks for the swelling to subside enough for surgery. What followed was pain, fear, boredom and a silver lining.
First, his renewed appreciation of the sport. He missed the Oregon State meet, the entire summer season and wasn't cleared to begin workouts until fall.
"I think not being able to compete (from May until January) made me work harder and focus harder when I was allowed to start training," said Ryan. "I had to realize it would take time before I could develop again. It was important to learn that it (track) will eventually end. So, I think I came back better mentally prepared."
Second, not being able to do any leg work, he worked on his upper body strength. His weightlifting workouts were forced to upper body only.
"My upper body is stronger than last year and my weight is up about 20 pounds (to 240)," said Ryan. "I've never been one of the stronger guys out there, but my bench and cleans are up to 300 and my squats are are in the upper 300 range."
Third, his appreciation for the sport has never been greater.
"It gave me a greater appreciation as to why I compete. It was hard, sitting there and watching my teammates and not being able to do anything. I learned from that," he said. "I really enjoy the competition within. It's a direct measurement of how I am today versus how I was yesterday. Being able to prove I am better today than yesterday is important. No one else's fault if you lost, but if you win, it's because you put in the hard work."
It did delay Ryan's development with the spin technique in throwing the shot put. With no lower body work during summer, fall or early winter, timing was a struggle. Ryan is the first to admit he's still a bit uncomfortable with it, but it is a work in progress.
"I mean I didn't want it (the injury) to happen, but I think I came away with it as good as I could have," he said. "So, actually, I think I am better because of the injury."
His three meets this year certainly attest to that. But he is quick to point out that there is a lot of hard work ahead.
The other silver lining is that while the Barlow High School basketball team would love to have Ryan's 6-7 frame roaming the low post, the foot injury meant no basketball and more time to rehab, as well as focus on track.
"I really enjoy basketball and did pretty good. I was sixth man as a sophomore, then starter as a junior and we made playoffs both years, but jumping is out this year."FAMILY HISTORY WELL DOCUMENTED
This Crouser family is known as America's premiere throwing family. It's a pedigree that started with Ryan's grandfather, Larry, back in the early 1950s when he threw the javelin 220 feet for the U.S. Army. Larry's sons - Mitch, Brian and Dean - were among the best throwers in the world during the 1980s and early 90s and good enough to be featured by Sports Illustrated in 1983.Continue reading