In its history and its present, track and field cannot disconnect itself from the specter of fraudulent accomplishment. Occasionally, on the right day when the right athlete comes along, it can chip away at it. Friday night at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., even as the sport confronts its latest controversy over performance-enhancing drugs, was one of those times.

Ryan Crouser, a ginger-ponytailed 28-year-old with sewer-pipe arms from Boring, Ore., twirled in a circle and heaved a 16-pound iron ball farther than any man in history. Before the shot had ended its long arc, Crouser thrust his arms over his head. The crowd at Hayward Field stood and cheered. The shot splashed into the dirt 23.37 meters (76 feet 8¼ inches) away, the new world record by a quarter of a meter.

“I’ve known it’s possible, and that almost makes it more difficult,” Crouser said. “I’ve known it’s possible for four-plus years now. I felt like I was 10 pounds lighter as soon as that went up on the leader board. I didn’t realize how much that had been weighing on me.”

The old record had stood since May 1990. It had belonged to a thrower named Randy Barnes. Months after he threw the shot 23.12 (75-10¼), Barnes tested positive for anabolic steroids. In 1998, Barnes received a lifetime ban for using androstenedione. A hallowed measure of the sport could not be trusted for three decades, but it could not be wiped away, either.

And then Friday night, in the wake of star middle-distance runner Shelby Houlihan’s contested four-year ban for the steroid nandrolone, it was. Crouser was competing for the first time at the new Hayward Field. He had been to the old one for the first time in fifth grade, when he threw the javelin in the junior Olympics. Because of the pandemic, he was back in his home state for the first time since 2019.

Crouser had dreamed about the record since youth and circled it for years. He won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games with an Olympic record. In 2017, he started to view it as a realistic accomplishment. In May, he heaved a throw 23.01 meters (75-6), fourth best all-time and only 11 centimeters short of a world record set 31 years ago.

On his first three throws Friday, he felt strong, but he knew he needed to put himself in a better position at release. When he walked into the circle for his fourth throw Friday night, he believed the power would be there. “Just go slow,” Crouser told himself.

The moment it left his hand, Crouser began celebrating. He waited to see the distance on the scoreboard, and it popped up: 23.37. He comes from a throwing family — his dad was a discus alternate at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He used to throw a 6-pound shot all day behind his barn. And now the name Crouser would find a place in the record books.

“Any track and field athlete, you start throwing or you starting doing any event, and you start thinking about being the best … or throwing the farthest or running the fastest,” Crouser said on NBC. “It’s something I’ve thought of I don’t know how many times. When I was this tall, I’d take a throw and throw my hands up and be like, ‘Oh, that one beat Randy Barnes!’ ”

As a 10-year-old, Crouser would watch tapes formatted to DVD of German star Ulf Timmermann setting the Olympic record and Barnes’s world record throw. In the backyard, his dad would mark a spot in the ground and tell him that’s where Barnes’s throw had landed — so beat it. Crouser guesses he had surpassed Barnes 1,000 times in fantasy before he did it for real.

Crouser idolized what Barnes could do with a shot put, but Barnes had left the sport in disgrace. Did Crouser find satisfaction in knocking a thrower of Barnes’s history from the top of the record books?

“It’s a difficult question to answer,” Crouser said. “The sport has changed so much since then. Drug testing has cleaned up the sport exponentially. All I can say is with the regimen of drug testing we go through, I’m happy to say the world record is under the current system. It’s changed a lot. Nothing against the former world record holder. It was a different time in track and field. It’s awesome that we have a 100 percent world record in the shot put now.”

This year, just making the U.S. team was an accomplishment. Joe Kovacs, Crouser’s rival and the reigning world champion, finished second. Payton Otterdahl claimed the final spot on the team by two centimeters over Darrell Hill, who may have been a medal threat in Tokyo had his shot traveled 21.93 meters rather than 21.89.

“One of the deepest shot put competitions in history,” Crouser said.

On a night when the athletes wrested the spotlight from the controversy of Houlihan’s four-year ban, Crouser’s throw stood out. And yet Allyson Felix may have provided the most compelling presence. Yes, discus thrower Valarie Allman set a trials record with a hurl of 229-8 in qualifying; Sha’Carri Richardson announced her trials arrival with a blazing 100-meter heat victory, raising her hands above her dyed-orange hair as she crossed the line; and world champion Donovan Brazier ran an effortlessly dominant 800-meter heat.

But Felix is royalty. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics disappointed her acutely. She would have to continue training at an Olympic level not until age 34 but 35. As the weeks and months wore in the awful spring of 2020, one of the greatest figures of American track and field resorted to the same pastime as most everyone else. She searched for silver linings.

The brightest of them sat in her father’s lap Friday at Hayward Field, wearing a Cocomelon T-shirt and two white bows in her hair. Camryn, Felix’s 2½-year-old daughter, may not have been old enough to understand watching her mother run last year. On Friday night, she clapped and smiled as Felix crossed the tape.

“She’s so aware,” Felix said. “She’s able to enjoy this as well.”

In so many ways, these trials are different for Felix. Her fifth and final trials will be a challenge rather than a coronation. She is a mother, having come back from a harrowing birth that threatened the lives of both her and Camryn. And yet, her first appearance at the trials also brought the familiar — her upright posture, her smooth stride, her reaching the finish line first. Felix opened her bid to make her fifth Olympics by winning a first-round 400-meter heat in 50.99 seconds.

The most inspiring performance belonged to 29-year-old Abbey Cooper in a 5,000-meter heat. Cooper, then Abbey D’Agostino, had a memorable and tragic 2016 Olympics. Early in her race, she tripped, twisted her knee and tumbled to the track with New Zealander Nikki Hamblin. D’Agostino helped up Hamblin, encouraged her and finished the race in last place. Cooper left the track in a wheelchair with a torn ACL.

On Friday, she took a step back to the Olympics. Forty-five minutes before her heat, Cooper’s coach told her it would be too hot in Monday’s 5,000-meter final to reach the qualifying standard of 15 minutes 10 seconds, so she should try for it if she felt good. About three laps into the race, Cooper started breaking away. She ran almost the entire race alone, the half-full stadium roaring, all the athletes on the field clapping and shouting. Cooper crossed the line in 15:07 — three seconds clear. If she finishes in the top three Monday — a feat perhaps made easier by Houlihan’s absence — she will head back to the Olympics.

“I am just overwhelmed,” Cooper said. “I am so thankful. … The best times in my life have been when I operated on faith, when I just stepped out on faith.”

Track and field, so often, is not a sport that rewards faith. On Friday night, with a throw for history, Crouser tried to make the sport’s adherents believe.

“It still hasn’t quite settled in,” Crouser said after 11 a.m. on the East Coast, speaking to reporters on a Zoom call. He planned later to have a double cheeseburger at the first place he could find open. First, he would be drug tested.