In evaluating his own record-setting performance in the shot put at the Big 12 outdoor track and field championships, Ryan Crouser described the day as one “that has got to be up there.”
His Longhorn coaches and teammates could say the same. But for the UT women, it wasn’t a Sunday at the Hart-Patterson Track Complex they’ll necessarily want to remember.
Getting outstanding performances from Crouser — the sophomore broke the school and conference meet record with a heave of 69 feet, 2½ inches — and others, coach Bubba Thornton’s men won their first outdoor conference title since 2006. The Longhorns, locked in a duel with Oklahoma, finished with 146.5 points to the Sooners’ 133.
“It feels great because you spent a whole school year working toward this moment,” Thornton said. “The whole staff did a great job, and this great bunch of guys (athletes) all pulled together.”
But the UT women came up short. After the first two encouraging days, the Longhorns “didn’t get the third day done,” said interim head coach Rose Brimmer. Consequently, the defending outdoor champion Longhorns fell to indoor champion Kansas 158-145.
The final insult was driven home in the last event, when the league-leading UT 1,600-meter relay team, looking for its first outdoor conference victory in the event since 2005, was nipped at the wire by the Jayhawks.
“They just kind of went through the motions” since the team title was already decided, Brimmer said.
The Longhorn men, meanwhile, got two of their overall four first-place finishes on the final day. While Crouser burst on the international scene with his huge throw in the shot, UT got a shot in the arm early Sunday when seniors Trevor Van Ackeren and Austin Bussing went 1-2 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and juniors Austin Roth and John McNamara took seventh and eighth.
That was 21 big points to get Texas started on a positive note.
Crouser’s record-breaking toss capped a remarkable string of four straight throws, beginning with a 67-2¼ effort on his second attempt.
He followed that with heaves of 66-6½ and 67-7 before getting in the ring for the fifth of his sixth attempts, the throw that he said is one of the thrills of his career.
“I finally feel I’m kind of up there with the big boys,” Crouser said. “It’s a great deal for me.”
Crouser broke the school record of 68-3¾ set by Brian Robison at the 2006 NCAA Midwest Regional. He also eclipsed the Big 12 meet mark of 69 feet set by Missouri’s Christian Cantwell in 2003.
“It’s unbelievable,” Crouser said of breaking Robison’s mark. “It’s hard to find words to describe it. Texas has been such a great shot-putting school.”
Crouser said he wasn’t expecting to do what he did because “training has been a little spotty” in the past week during exams at Texas. But now, he’s close enough to the consider hitting the 70-foot barrier, which he would love to do when the Oregon native returns to Eugene for the NCAA championships.
The women had some silver linings, especially a gutty double from Sara Sutherland. Primarily a 5,000 runner, the junior competed in her first 1,500 at a conference meet. She took the lead with about two laps left and won the event in 4 minutes, 22.87 seconds.
Later, she picked up five more points with a fourth-place finish in the 5,000.
“It’s definitely a day of mixed emotions for me,” Sutherland said. “I’m happy with what I did but we wanted to win” the team title.
“To be honest, I think the entire team can look each other in the eye and say we did everything we could do,” she added. “All of us wanted to win real badly. The motto for the weekend was the best kind of ‘ships’ are friendships and championships.”