Oregon State’s volunteer high jump coach, John Radetich, likes to begin every meet with the bar set to the world record height of 8 feet, ½ inch.
It’s a preposterously high bar, but one that gives every high jumper a perspective on what’s humanly possible.
At Oregon State, which hosted its second home track meet on the new Jim Whyte Track and Field Center, the bar is constantly being nudged upward a fraction of an inch at a time. And there is still a long way to go.
The women’s team is putting entrants into more events this spring, mostly in jumps and throws. And as a group of middle and long distance runners, there is a growing sense of depth and progress. They are punching holes in the school’s Top 10 list with each and every date on the calendar.
But I was interested to hear from Oregon sophomore Sam Crouser. His family roots extend into the bedrock of Oregon State’s track and field past. He is also a budding superstar, following in the home-grown vein of Tommy Skipper, Galen Rupp, Ashton Eaton, Elijah Greer, etc. In other words, he is track and field royalty.
Sam isn’t afraid to say what he really thinks of something. I once sat in his backyard and he showed me the medal he won from Pan Am Juniors. He said it was “chintzy” compared to the one his cousin Ryan had won at World Youth that same summer.
So I asked him what he thought of his first experience competing at Oregon State (he won the discus with a PR throw of 179 feet) and the word he was looking for … wasn’t “chintzy.”
“It’s a work in progress, but the track and stuff looks good and everything is really nice,” Sam said. “With some stands and everything (else), it could look really good.”
Again, this is Sam Crouser. He doesn’t praise everything. I think the people who know him best would back me up on this.
I asked him what he thought, as a native Oregonian, of Oregon State making progress to bring back track and field.
“I think it’s actually really good,” the Olympic Trials runner-up in the javelin said. “Maybe we could have a rivalry someday, but just so we can have this cross-town (rivalry) feeling. Oregon in general is so good at producing (athletes), but having this thing that’s ‘cross-town,’ these two really good schools that compete against each other, I think it’s really good for the state.”
Sam might not even realize how much his words mean to Oregon State. They are validation. And they nudged that bar another fraction of an inch.
Also, I asked him about his current season and he sounded happy with it. He expects to be in contention for the NCAA javelin title and has been working on the “rhythm and feel” that he has honed over the last decade as part of the Crouser clan. Without getting to metaphysical, rhythm and feel is as important on the javelin runway as any of the chain of events that occur prior and during a throw.
It’s something the best throwers understand.
“I’m getting consistent with my rhythm,” Sam said. “Now that I’ve got the runway worked out a little bit I’ll go back to technical stuff and put it together.”
Sam stays in contact with the discus by practicing it once a week or so, which is important because spinning in a ring requires rhythm and feel, too.
He’s healthy and feeling good and glad to have witnessed the Oregon program restocked with throwers, such as Ryan Hunter-Simms. There was once a fear that Sam might come to Oregon and not have any training partners.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “Before, there was throwing at Oregon, but it was a while ago. It went stagnant for a decade or so. Now we’re back and we’re part of the team. We’re a piece of the team again, where we can score points, we can contribute, and be a weapon on the team.”