Five-time All-American thrower Crouse still pushing her limits

Five-time All-American thrower Crouse still pushing her limits

By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director

Even if Jamie Crouse never fired off another hammer throw or whirled another shot put, she would still go down as one of the top throwers in the proud history of Concordia University track and field. Five total All-America honors and three GPAC weight throw titles provide plenty enough ammo for that argument.

To know Crouse, a senior from Belgrade, Neb., is to know the definition of competitive. She wants more as she enters the outdoor track and field season and her final chance at the ultimate goal: a national title.

“I have developed into a more competitive person, always wanting a better mark in anything – track, school or whatever,” Crouse said. “I’m always competing against myself. Never being satisfied is kind of the nature of an athlete. I’m always working hard to go for that next big thing.”

While the ambitious aim of a national title has eluded her thus far, Crouse’s career has been a rousing success no matter the anguish she feels when thinking of past national championship efforts that fell short of personal best marks. Her disappointment is mostly a byproduct of an obsessive pursuit of perfection.

This championship drive has helped Crouse rise to the level of a top thrower on the national level despite some obvious limitations. Watch the throws at a Bulldog meet and you’ll notice a competitor, at 5-foot-8 (maybe), shorter and smaller than the rest. You’ll also notice the respect she commands – and that she out-distances everyone. That would be Crouse of course.

“Great person, great attitude, great worker,” said Concordia throws coach Ed McLaughling, who has known Crouse since her freshman year of high school. “She has done everything she can to be successful in the ring and the classroom. It hasn’t been easy but she has worked through the hard times and came out better for it.”

The powerful Crouse has had to overcome more than just a size disadvantage. The biggest limiting factor throughout her athletic career has been injury. She tore her ACL playing basketball as a high school senior and has dealt with nagging pains, including a cranky back this year, throughout her college career.

Crouse says it’s a constant mental battle as well as a struggle in knowing when to hold back and when she can push herself further. Pain is just part of the deal when it comes to being a thrower, and Crouse handles it better than most.

“It’s a lot, especially with the weight throw,” Crouse said. “For girls, 20 pounds is a lot of weight. Outdoor, (the weight) is lighter but it’s longer so there’s more torque there. It takes a lot out of you. You think it’s just throwing an object but there’s so much more to it. You throw with your legs and your hips more than your arms. It’s a workout.”

Daughter of Steve and Sandy Crouse, Jamie grew up on a farm about 45 miles west of Columbus, near the town of Belgrade – population of 126 according to the 2010 census. There she enjoyed riding four wheelers, swimming, tanking and working on the farm.

Sports were also part of the equation as a Fullerton High School student. Crouse, who played basketball and started out as a sprinter on the track team, says her older brother Jim was a major influence on her sporting habits.

But none of her three older siblings were throwers. Even with her lack of size, Crouse’s combination of power, quickness and strength made her a good fit as a thrower. Her high school coach Brandy Zarek, a Concordia throwing alum, wanted Crouse to give it a try.

It turned out she was a natural. Crouse broke a school record as a freshman shortly after meeting McLaughlin who worked with Crouse at Zarek’s request. Shielded in a small town and overlooked in part because of injuries, Crouse was a hidden gem – and McLaughlin knew it.

“First thing I heard about Jamie was that she was going to beat her coach’s record, which she did as a freshman,” McLaughlin said. “That was my first clue as to how good she could be. If it wasn’t for a slew of injuries in high school Jamie would have been a highly recruited thrower. What most people don’t know is Jamie was a sprinter and a guard on the basketball team. She is highly athletic and extremely quick. She is still probably one of the quickest on our team.”

Crouse mentions Doane, Hastings and Midland as schools that emerged as potential college destinations. However, none wanted her more seriously as an athlete than Concordia. That was obvious to Crouse.

“I didn’t have too many recruiters actually,” Crouse said. “I went to Doane just to see it. They weren’t really recruiting me. In basketball I tore my ACL my senior year so I never really had any looks there at all. Being in a small town, you have to sell yourself. Ed kind of made that happen.”

And so Crouse went from lightly recruited to a GPAC titlist and an All-American. She improved immensely between her freshman and sophomore seasons, bumping up her weight throw mark from 47’ 6 ¼” to 56’ 3 ½”. She also increased her hammer throw from 145’ 11” to 175’ in her first two seasons. As a junior she broke the school hammer record with her toss of 190’ 5”.

Always striving for more, Crouse wants to push that mark above 200 feet this outdoor season. And of course, anything less than a national title in the event will feel like a letdown to Crouse.

But in a moment of reflection, Crouse admits she could not have expected this kind of success as a high school freshman, once content as a sprinter and basketball player. Through injury and all, her impressive career easily puts her among the top five female Bulldog throwers ever, according to McLaughlin.

Says Crouse, “I threw in middle school too but I had no idea I would end up where I’m at.”

28 March 2014