Simplot Games alumni shine at Olympics

The 2021 Olympic Games may be over, but the memories of outstanding performances, thrilling finishes, and dramatic moments live on. We look back on three former Simplot Games athletes who left their mark in Tokyo.

Allyson Felix (Simplot Games 2001, 2002, 2003)

Some may have predicted Olympic glory for Allyson Felix when she first competed at Simplot Games in 2001 as an outstanding high school sophomore, but even the most optimistic could not have foreseen her sustained success over the two decades since.

With a bronze medal in the 400 meters and gold in the 4×400-meter relay in Tokyo, Allyson now owns more medals than any woman in Olympic track and field history and is the most decorated American track and field Olympic athlete of all time.

Coming to Simplot Games from Southern California, Allyson dazzled the Holt Arena crowd over three years, competing in 2001, 2002, and 2003. As a junior she completed the short sprint double, winning both the 60- and 200-meter dashes.

The hype for a repeat as a senior brought out the best in her competition, and amazingly Allyson was the runner-up in two thrilling races by just .02 of a second in each. In the 2003 200-meter final, her shoulder-to-shoulder, stride-for-stride dash to the finish line with Long Beach’s Jasmine Lee still stands out to longtime attendees as one of the Games’ all-time greatest individual races.

Her high school career ended with the high school 200-meter national record, and she was named the 2003 high school track and field athlete of the year by Track and Field News. Since then she has become a globally recognized role model for aspiring athletes of all ages.

Ryan Crouser (Simplot Games 2011)

When Ryan Crouser won the 2016 Olympic shot put gold medal, setting a Games record in the process, the then-23-year-old surprised many onlookers who recognized his potential but thought it wasn’t yet his time to win.

Four years later, a repeat gold medal in the 2021 Olympics was widely expected after Ryan smashed the shot put world record a few weeks earlier during the U.S. Olympic Trials. The old record dated back 31 years—well before Ryan was born. At the Tokyo Games Ryan broke his own 2016 Olympic record with all six of his throws, extending his own Olympic standard.

Setting records was nothing new for Ryan. As a high school senior from Gresham, Ore., he made his only Simplot Games appearance in 2011 following an injury-marred junior year. Ryan amazed the crowd and his fellow competitors with a series of impressive throws that broke the Simplot Games record and threatened the national high school indoor shot put record. In the final round he recorded an incredible national record setting throw of 77’-2.75”.

Later that season he broke the outdoor high school discuss record, firmly establishing himself as one of the greatest high school throwers of all time. With back-to-back Olympic golds, Ryan is simply one of the best throwers to ever compete.

Tara Davis (Simplot Games 2015, 2016, 2017)

In 2017, as Tara Davis prepared for the third and final Simplot Games of her high school career, she said, “I want to be somebody and do something. I want to go to the Olympics. I want to change the game of the long jump. If I bring my attitude and drive to the long jump, people will get more excited about it.”

Just four years later the she realized that dream as her exuberant personality, limitless energy, and excellent performance in the U.S. Olympic Trials made her one of the new and shining faces of the American track and field team (her hundreds of thousands of social media followers certainly didn’t hurt, either).

The long jump was indeed one of the events to watch at the Tokyo Olympics, and while her sixth-place finish did not earn a medal, it did serve notice that Tara will be a force to reckon with in future years.

Tara competed at Simplot Games in 2015, 2016, and 2017. As a junior in 2016 she set the event’s long jump record on her second-to-last jump, only to have senior Samiyah Samuels of Cypress, Texas, then break Tara’s new record. Not to be outdone, Tara reclaimed the record with her final jump, surpassing the twice-broken record by an astounding five inches.

As a senior, Tara was featured on the 2017 Simplot Games poster and expectations were high. She did not disappoint, breaking the long jump record again to the still-standing mark of 21’-2.75”, and also winning the 60-meter hurdles and triple jump to cap a great all-around Simplot Games performance.

At just 22 years old, there is plenty of time for Tara’s legend to grow. We can’t wait.

Who’s next?

Allyson, Ryan, and Tara were the latest Simplot Games alumni to star in the Olympics. There are sure to be more in 2024, and beyond. Stay tuned for news on the 2022 Simplot Games, where some athletes’ Olympic journeys may just begin.