DES MOINES, IOWA, August 25 & 29—Nobody told us we’d see days like this. With apologies to the late John Lennon for some lyric mangling, today at the Drake Blue Oval Showcase in the midst of a pandemic that already has us whipsawed, Ryan Crouser made tossing off a shot series of quality seen only once before in history look as easy as laying out silverware for dinner with his girlfriend.
Topped by a 74-6½ (22.72) monster throw in the second round, the Olympic champion lobbed all 6 of his efforts beyond 73-feet/22.25m with his second through fifth attempts all flying further than 74-5 (22.68). The performance made Nick Ponzio and Payton Otterdahl, both with estimable bests on the day of 69-6¼ (21.19), look like they were throwing on a different planet—one with stronger gravitational pull. Crouser’s average across his score sheet was 74-¾/22.57.
Only Alessandro Andrei’s 74-3/22.63 series on August 12, 1987, when the Italian glider topped out at 75-2 (22.91) as part of a 3-World Record day is marginally superior in event history.
“Yeah, I was really, really happy with it,” said Crouser. “I mean, I wanted that big one, the 23m, and felt like, ‘It was there, but all I can really do is set myself up as best I can and just try to let it happen the day of.’ I felt like I did that really well. The consistency I had out there showed that. I think I had 4 over 22.60 [74-1¾] and all 6 over 22.20 [72-10]. I think that’s the first time anyone’s ever thrown 6 fair throws over 22m, let alone over 22.20. [Andrei did, actually, but forgive Crouser for not having those 33-year-old results in his pocket as he walked off the Drake infield]
“So I was really, really happy with the consistency and the execution. It just didn’t quite connect on that big throw, but anytime you’re consistent like that, you kind of know what’s there. So I’m happy with it, kind of a little bit—not disappointed, but would just be liking to compete a little more.”
This was just Crouser’s fourth outdoor meet of the pandemic year, following a pair in Georgia in July and a “tune-up” here 4 days ago where his first two throws, one longer than his Olympic Record and the other just shy of it, merited superlatives as well.
“I was here on Tuesday and had a really nice opening throw,” he said. “I think 22.56 [74-¼] and then another 22.50 [73-10]. So that consistency is there, kind of starting to roll, but it has a similar feel like you would find in the season in like March or April, that early season—kind of working the bugs out. So a huge improvement meet to meet right now. I’m hoping to get a couple more opportunities to compete, get out there and, and try to get a big mark. ’Cause I feel like I’m in PR shape right now.”
While Drake’s offering today was the closest thing yet to a full-event-slate major U.S. outdoor meet this season, Crouser admitted the atmosphere was not quite the same as, say, that titanic men’s shot clash in Doha.
“You can hear a pin drop ’cause there’s just no ambient noise,” he said answering a journalist’s question about his shout-out after the competition to a small group of spectators. “So there’s like 20 of them up there so I just yelled thanks for coming out. And they seemed to enjoy that. The group was student-athletes mostly that were there. So they appreciated having a throwing event here and I think they appreciate the performance I was able to put on. So a huge thanks to them for just coming out and huge thanks to Drake and, the meet promoter, Blake [Boldon]. He just did so much putting this together.
“And really well thought out. We had a lot of safety precautions. I felt safe out there competing. My girlfriend Megan Clark was 2nd in the pole vault and I know they did everything they could have between putting a new bungee up, everyone had their own mat to jump on. So Blake did a great job just thinking this out and making it safe for the athletes to come out and compete.”
But “it was definitely a difference. Tuesday was kind of a little bit strange. It was the 5 competitors and the officials and that was pretty much it. There were like 6 officials out there, and so there were less than 15 people at the meet, which is kinda a little bit strange. But I mean, having not competed, it wasn’t a problem at all—[in the sense of] I mentally can’t get up or don’t have adrenaline.
“’Cause it was like, ‘Oh wow, I’m actually competing again! This is a big deal because I don’t know when the next time I’m going to be able to is.’ So just having those few people there made a big difference and they were loud and they were into it. So it was awesome. Just having a few people and just happy with the opportunity to compete again. It means a lot after everything everyone’s been through this year.” (Continued below)
In the spring, after the Tokyo postponement, the Fayetteville, Arkansas-based Crouser, vowed he would make something of this season, come what may. “Late March, first week of April, me and my training partner Eric Sullins just said, ‘We’re going to commit and train like we’re going to have a meet in the first week of September,’” he said. “’If we can have a meet before then or even if we have meets in September, great. But we’re going to commit 100% and train like we’re going to have a chance to go all in on that.’ So it was a huge training block.
“And then I only had one week notice before I went to Atlanta so I was doing a lot of time in the weightroom and kind of just maintenance throwing 3 days a week—which for me is quite a bit less. And so I went in there and surprised myself with that 22.91.
“Then since I came back [from Georgia] it’s been more like preseason prep. A lot more running, a lot more plyos, backed off in the weight room a little bit. So we’re not doing such heavy lifts, but more trying to be faster and more dynamic. And then throwing more. We’ve gone to 4, up to 5, sessions a week throwing. So that’s really helped my throwing, especially with the consistency.
“Atlanta [Marietta] was very inconsistent. I did happen to get a big throw, but I’ve been really happy with my training in the past month and then now today with the best series. And like I was saying, you kinda set yourself up to throw far as best you can. And it’s when you try to make it happen that’s usually when you regret it afterwards, because the best throws are the ones you kind of let happen. So I felt like I was really good mentally today, just staying relaxed and not trying to kill it, not trying to make it happen.
“And I executed well technically—just a couple little, I mean, when you’re throwing far you’re not thinking your way through. It’s like you just wind up and from the moment you go, you’re just trying to clear your head and let it happen. So I did that really well.”
Crouser’s apparent ease in sending every throw on the day otherworldly made him look like an ace golfer at the range with his driver and a bucket of balls.
“I had a couple that I kind of piked back on the finish,” he said assessing his series. “Usually I get my hips through really well. Like if you think of a golf swing, when it’s coming through your hips clear. Those are kind of the best throws. I set them up really well, but just didn’t quite clear. My hips piked back just a little bit.
“That was on two of the throws and they happened to be the 22.70s throws that were really set up well, technically, but I just didn’t quite finish it. So I’m on the right track, really consistent today and just hoping to get a couple more opportunities to compete.”
Premeet anticipation was heightened not just by Crouser’s PR in July, but also reports he has recently thrown past 23.00 (75-5½) in practice more than once.
“I’ve thrown about 23 [75-5½] in training now a few times,” he said, “and when it happens, it always feels kind of like a surprise. Because you’re kind of doing something you’ve never done before or doing something you’ve only done once or twice. So it’s [a matter of] setting yourself up to let it happen and then getting out of your own way and just letting your body do what you’ve been trained to do and kind of getting your mind out of the way. But then the frustrating thing is, you know that you can do it, but trying to replicate it is difficult when I’ve only done it a handful of times.”
Crouser hopes to find more meets. But where? “I think we’re in the process of kind of trying to figure out maybe doing a European travel block,” he said. “A lot of Europe is kind of back to competing. It’s closer to just having a traditional European season. So I might try to get over there for a few meets. We’re working on that, working with going through the quarantine process and, of course, following all the protocols for that. It’s still a little bit tough because it’s day to day. Everything’s so dynamic right now with the situations around the world where everyone is kind of in different situations and adapting a lot. So we’re doing our best to set that up and hoping to go to Europe. And if not, hopefully line up a couple of meets here in the U.S.
“We definitely don’t want to shut it down on this note. I want to keep throwing if I can.”
BLUE OVAL SHOWCASE MEN’S RESULTS
Des Moines, Iowa, August 25 & 29—
100: I(0.9)–1. Jeff Demps (adi) 10.09; 2. Devin Quinn (Nik) 10.12; 3. Brandon Carnes (adi) 10.33. II(1.9)–1. Kyree King (Nik) 10.19; 2. Christopher Belcher (Nik) 10.26; 3. Jarrion Lawson (unat) 10.31.
200: I(1.8)–1. Josephus Lyles (adi) 20.32; 2. Alonso Edward’ (Pan) 20.69; 3. Matthew Hudson-Smith’ (GB) 20.95; 4. Marqueze Washington (unat) 21.73. II(2.4)–1. Justin Robinson (MoHS) 20.67w; 2. Manteo Mitchell (unat) 21.18w;… dnf—Wallace Spearmon (Nik).
Road Mile (USATF Champs): 1. Sam Prakel (adi) 3:59; 2. Colby Alexander (HokaNJNY) 3:59; 3. Joe Klecker (OnAC) 3:59 PR; 4. Tripp Hurt (unat) 4:02 PR; 5. Jake Edwards (ColRC) 4:02; 6. Abraham Alvarado (AtlTC) 4:02 PR; 7. Johnny Gregorek (Asics) 4:03; 8. Graham Crawford (HokaNJNY) 4:04; 9. Obsa Ali (Asics) 4:06 PR; 10. Erik Sowinski (BrkB) 4:07 PR; 11. Bryce Richards (unat) 4:15 PR.
110H: I(0.6)–1. Michael Dickson (unat) 13.54; 2. Devon Allen (Nik) 13.54; 3. Aleec Harris (adi) 13.84; 4. Greggmar Swift’ (Bar) 13.91. II(1.3)–1. Chad Zallow (Nik) 13.74; 2. Trey Holloway (adi) 14.18; 3. Wellington Zaza’ (Lbr) 14.22.
SP: I–1. Ryan Crouser (Nik) 74-¼ (22.56) (74-¼, 73-10, f, 72-5¼, 72-10, f) (22.56, 22.50, f, 22.08, 22.20, f); 2. Payton Otterdahl (Nik) 69-4¼ (21.14); 3. Nick Ponzio (VelDesHP) 68-1½ (20.76); 4. Lucas Warning (GarS) 60-1¾ (18.33).
II–1. Crouser (Nik) 74-6½ (22.72) (x, =14 W; x, 8 A) (73-¾, 74-6½, 74-5¾, 74-3, 74-5, 73-7½) (22.27, 22.72, 22.70, 22.63, 22.68, 22.44) (avg. 74-¾/22.57);
2. Ponzio 69-6¼ (21.19) (68-4½, 67-9½, 69-6¼, 67-9¾, 68-3¾, 68-7) (20.84, 20.66, 21.19, 20.67, 20.82, 20.90); 3. Otterdahl 69-6¼ (21.19) (67-1½, 66-9¼, 69-6¼, f, f, f) (20.46, 20.35, 21.19, f, f, f); 4. Nick Skarvélis’ (Gre) 64-5¼ (19.64); 5. Warning 62-7¼ (19.08); 6. Alex Renner (Vel) 60-6 (18.44).
BLUE OVAL WOMEN’S RESULTS
100(1.5): 1. Kayla White (Nik) 11.18; 2. Kristina Knott’ (Phi) 11.27 NR; 3. Tianna Bartoletta (Nik) 11.44.
200: I(3.7)–1. Lynna Irby (adi) 22.52w; 2. Kyra Jefferson (Nik) 22.69w; 3. Tynia Gaither’ (Bah) 23.08w;… dnf—Shaunae Miller-Uibo’ (Bah). II(2.1)–1. Shakima Wimbley (adi) 23.07w; 2. Jessica Beard (adi) 23.34w; 3. Shamier Little (adi) 23.41w; 4. Brittany Brown (adi) 23.65w.
Road Mile (USATF Champs): 1. Emily Lipari (adi) 4:30; 2. Marisa Howard (RUJA) 4:32 PR; 3. Megan Mansy (HokaNJNY) 4:32 PR; 4. Alli Cash (RavTC) 4:34 PR; 5. Katie Mackey (Brk) 4:36; 6. Karisa Nelson (BrkB) 4:39 PR; 8. Dani Aragon (HokaNJNY) 4:40 PR; 9. Heather Kampf (Asics) 4:40; 10. Sinclaire Johnson (Nik) 4:51 PR; 11. Brette Jensen (unat) 5:00 PR.
100H: I(0.9)–1. Tiffany Porter’ (GB) 12.90; 2. Megan Tapper’ (Jam) 12.96; 3. Dawn Harper-Nelson (unat) 13.17; 4. Cindy Ofili’ (GB) 13.22.
II(-0.2)–1. Payton Chadwick (Asics) 12.97 (AL);
2. Evonne Britton (adi) 13.20.
PV: 1. Sandi Morris (Nik) 15-3 (4.65) (14-11, 15-3 , 15-7 [xxx]) (4.55, 4.65 , 4.75 [xxx]); 2. Megan Clark (OisNYAC) 14-7¼ (4.45); 3. Kortney Ross (RPerf) 14-3¼ (4.35); 4. Ariel Lieghio (unat) 13-9¼ (4.20);… nh—Sydney Walter (unat).
LJ: 1. Jordan Gray (MSInc) 20-2½w (6.16) (19-11/6.07); 2. Savannah Carson (unat) 19-9¾ (6.04); 3. Bartoletta 19-5½ (5.93); 4. Inika McPherson (QLeap) 17-6¾ (5.35) PR. ◻︎