ALTHOUGH Ryan Crouser won his third outdoor title with his fourth-best outdoor meet ever, 74-2½ (22.62), the story was just as much about Joe Kovacs (73-2½/22.31) and Darrell Hill (72-6½/22.11), as they formed the first trio of throwers from the same country ever to put over 72ft/22m in the same competition. In fact, only twice in world history had three men of any nationality been over those benchmarks in the same meet.
The second flight—with all the major names—began with Kovacs in the ring, and he hit a big throw early, reaching 72-1¾ (21.99), leading after the first round over Jon Jones (68-8/20.93) and Curt Jensen (67-3½/20.51), as both Hill and Crouser fouled. Kovacs opened the second stanza with the slightest of improvements to 72-2¾ (22.00), his first 22m put since June of ’17. Immediately following him into the ring was Hill, who pressed the leader with 72-1¾ (21.99) to move into 2nd. When Crouser hit a solid put out to 71-10¾ (21.91), the team was decided, even if the fireworks had barely begun. Kovacs started round 3 with another improvement, this one to 73-2½ (22.31). Hill followed with his own 22m effort, reaching 72-6½ (22.11), but still good only for 2nd. Crouser fouled.
After the brief break to redraw the order for the final three rounds, only Jensen and Crouser improved in round 4, the latter only slightly to 71-11½ (21.93). Trying to reach the top 3 caused each of the 5 outsiders to foul in round 5, but it was Crouser who got the first legal throw in the sequence, blasting his cannon ball out to 74-2½ (22.62) to take the lead by a foot (31cm). Hill followed with a foul, and Kovacs closed the round at 70-3¾ (21.43).
The final sequence began with the first 4 in the throwing order settling down after their spate of earlier fouls. Each recorded his best of the day, topped by Jon Jones’s 70-2½ (21.40), which moved him into 4th ahead of Josh Awotunde, who had reached 68-9¾ (20.97) in round 3. Awotunde responded with a foul, as did Crouser and then Hill, the latter pair assured of spots on the U.S. team. Needing a 5cm PR to win, Kovacs reached 70-2¼ (21.39), his fifth 70-footer of the day, but leaving him 2nd.
Crouser’s big put, the No. 7 performance in U.S. history, gave him a solid win, but without it he would have been only 3rd. “I’ve struggled the last couple of weeks and have been battling some injuries,” he admitted. “It just seems like it’s been one thing after another. So I just really wanted to go out and execute and make the team. That’s always the goal. The guys made it tough out there, 3 over 22.10m-plus. It was hard-fought out there. This one meant a lot to me. For me to go out there and get a 22.60m-plus in the late rounds, I was really happy with that. I’d put that up there with any of my best throws ever.”
Runner-up Kovacs, with the best series of the three, said, “My goal with the first three was consistency and with the next three to turn it up.”
Hill summed up the day: “That’s American shot putting right there. That’s what it is. That’s what it’s become, that’s where we hope to keep it going. That’s what we wanted it to be for the past 2 years.”
USATF MEN’S SHOT RESULTS
1. Ryan Crouser (Nik) 74-2½ (22.62) (x, 7 A)
(f, 71-10¾, f, 71-11½, 74-2½, f) (f, 21.91, f, 21.93, 22.62, f);
2. Joe Kovacs (Vel/NYAC) 73-2½ (22.31)
(72-1¾, 72-2¼, 73-2½, 69-9¾, 70-3¾, 70-2¼) (21.99, 22.00, 22.31, 21.28, 21.43, 21.39);
3. Darrell Hill (Nik) 72-6½ (22.11)
(f, 72-1¾, 72-6½, f, f, f) (f, 21.99, 22.11, f, f, f);
4. Jon Jones (Vel) 70-2½ (21.40)
(68-8, 67-6, f, 67-½, f, 70-2½) (20.93, 20.57, f, 20.43, f, 21.40);
5. Josh Awotunde (CVE) 68-9¾ (20.97)
(65-½, 65-9¾, 68-9¾, f, f, f) (19.82, 20.06, 20.97, f, f, f);
6. Payton Otterdahl (Nik) 67-9¾ (20.67);
7. Curt Jensen (Vel) 67-8¾ (20.64);
8. David Pless (Iron) 67-4¾ (20.54);
9. Josh Freeman (Vel) 66-4½ (20.23);
10. Garrett Appier (CVE) 66-1¾ (20.16);
11. Nick Vena (unat) 66-½ (20.13);
12. Andrew Liskowitz (Mi) 65-4¾ (19.93);
13. Tripp Piperi (Tx) 65-4¾ (19.93);
14. Jordan Geist (Az) 64-10¾ (19.78);
15. Jared Kern (Vel) 64-10½ (19.77);
16. Alex Renner (Vel) 64-2½ (19.57);
17. Turner Washington (AzSt) 63-4¼ (19.31);
18. Roger Steen (Vel) 62-4½ (19.01). ◻︎