After overcoming injury and illness sophomore posts best shot-put mark in nation during his first outdoor competition of 2013
By Chelsea Bass
Texas Athletics prides itself on being the best, and sometimes that means overcoming adversity.
Ryan Crouser, a sophomore thrower for the nationally-ranked Men’s Track and Field, is no stranger to setbacks; he sat out the 2013 indoor season while recovering from injury.
But Crouser used last month’s 86th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays as the platform to launch his return.
“I had that day marked on my calendar for a long time,” Crouser said of Friday, March 29.
In his first competition since June, Crouser recorded the country’s best mark in the shot put this year. His throw of 67 1/2 (20.43m) is also third best on the 2013 world performers list. In fact, only one other collegiate performer since the beginning of the 2011 season has posted a better mark. Joe Kovacs of Penn State had a toss of 68-5 to win the 2012 Big Ten outdoor title.
Crouser is excited for the rest of the outdoor season and believes his showing at Texas Relays was the kickstart he needed.
“Just starting out with a good meet does wonders for your confidence,” Crouser said.
He is not the only one looking forward to seeing what else this season holds. Associate head coach Mario Sategna, who tutors the Longhorn throwers, is thoroughly impressed with Crouser’s first showing of the outdoor season.
“Coming off redshirting during indoors, it was a phenomenal opener. To throw over 20 meters for a college athlete his first meet out of the gate is huge,” Sategna said. “I know what his goals and aspirations are, and that’s to be the very best. It doesn’t matter if he’s a freshman in engineering or not, he wants to beat the best and be the top guy.”
Last year, Crouser was a first team All-American in the shot put at the NCAA Indoor Championships. He went on to compete at the NCAA Outdoor meet in the discus and shot put. He earned first team All-America honors by placing fourth in the discus with a personal-best toss of 196-1 (59.77m), but while competing in the shot put, he sustained an injury to his throwing hand.
During the summer the struggle continued for Crouser as he had his tonsils removed and then got strep throat.
“It was really tough staying back while the rest of my teammates got to go out and compete,” he said.
The strep throat decreased his appetite and caused major damage to the strong 6-foot-7 frame he spent so much time developing.
“I went from 250 (down to) 205 in five weeks,” Crouser said. “I basically had to start from scratch in the fall. I couldn’t do a pushup anymore. I could barely push out 135 on the bench, but I got to work on areas I was weak in last year. I feel like I’m a lot more well-rounded this year.”
Crouser also flourishes in the classroom while balancing school and track. The balancing act of classes and sport is difficult for most, especially when you are enrolled in the Cockrell School of Engineering, one of the top programs in the nation.
“Right now, I miss practice once or twice a week to study for or to take a test,” he said. “It’ll be nice to focus solely on track once school is over.”
Head coach Bubba Thornton understands the importance of time management at this level, especially for Crouser and what it takes to ensure success.
“We build on it by balancing his competition, making sure he gets the proper study time and rest. I think we’re going to see the results we want to see,” Thornton said.
He believes that this outdoor season is promising for Crouser, who also owns the eighth-best discus toss (194-6/59.28m) in the collegiate ranks this season, as long as he stays on the right path.
“Consistency first, let’s get a good balance here in the spring and we will get a lot better, no doubt about it,” said Thornton.