Haley Crouser stood in the mixed zone, looking for the words to articulate her Olympic Trials experience, when veteran Dana Pounds-Lyon walked behind her, pointed and said to the assembled media: "The future ladies and gentlemen, the future."
Crouser picked up where Gabby Williams and other high school athletes left off over the course of 10 days in Eugene at the 2012 U.S. Team Trials at Hayward Field.
Nine high school athletes competed in the Trials and five of them placed in the top eight. Shelbi Vaughan was fourth (WDT), Williams was fifth (WHJ), Tyler Sorensen was sixth (20K MRW), Crouser seventh (WJT), and Sean Keller was eighth (MJT). Aldrich Bailey (400) and a trio of 800-meter runners (Ajee Wilson, Mary Cain and Amy Weissenbach) all ran within range of their lifetime bests and two of them advanced beyond the first round.
On Sunday, Crouser hit her second-longest throw, 177-7, to ensure a place in the top eight (and three more throws), and then surpassed that mark on her sixth attempt, with 179-8.
The junior from Gresham, Ore. didn't break her high school record, but she finally began to paint the blank spaces between her 181-foot throw and her other top throws in 2012, around 170 feet.
"It was the best series of my life so I'm pretty happy," she said. "We had a goal of 175 to get into the top eight, so when I hit (177-7) I knew it was there so I knew I could hit a big one. I'm happy with 179."
Crouser now owns the top three high school throws in history. She placed seventh in one of the best U.S. competitions ever, with the top six women all at 180 feet or better. NCAA champion Brittany Borman launched a final-attempt 201-9 to win the competition and achieve the A standard necessary to go to London.
For Crouser, the breakthrough came with a small technical adjustment. Her father/coach, Dean Crouser, and her uncle, Brian Crouser (a former world record holder and Olympian), noticed something in her posture. They asked her to keep her back a little more erect and bring her arm over the top a bit more.
It was the 177-footer that was the most important. After that one, she could stop thinking so hard and just throw.
"On that one I ran up and forgot my steps for a second," she said. "I don't know how, because I've done them thousands of times. But it turned out fine."
Crouser competed against the top throwers in the country for the first time and performed admirably against a couple of her idols.
"I have always looked up to Rachel (Yurkovich) and Kara (Patterson)," she said of the two other women who earned spots on the Olympic team. "Especially Rachel, because she's an Oregonian and she had the national record. ... It was an amazing experience getting to compete against them."
A week earlier, Crouser's older brother, Sam, came up with a big sixth attempt throw to place second in the men's javelin (at the age of 20).
As with fellow prep Keller (eighth in the men's javelin), there is more to come. Crouser will be aiming for a spot on the medal stand at the World Junior Championships and also has a cultural exchange meet in Finland this summer with Project Kultan Keihas, sponsored by NSSF.