Ashton Eaton sets world decathlon mark in awesome display
Eaton rang up 9,039 points to better by 13 the mark of Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic. Some of his efforts were prodigious, in the vicinity of world-class in open events — a 10.21 in the 100, 27-0 in the long jump, 17-4½ in the pole vault.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
EUGENE, Ore. — If there's one more place available in the sporting consciousness, one more slice of stature in a world dominated by LeBron James and Josh Hamilton and Tom Brady, then save a seat for Ashton Eaton.
No, his name will never be in the same pantheon as theirs — this is track and field, after all — but what Eaton did here in two days, and what he might do down the road, is staggering.
Pushed Saturday by the fabled Oregon following at Hayward Field, the 24-year-old former Duck brought down the world record in the decathlon with a magnificent performance.
Eaton rang up 9,039 points to better by 13 the mark of Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic. Some of his efforts were prodigious, in the vicinity of world-class in open events — a 10.21 in the 100, 27-0 in the long jump, 17-4 ½ in the pole vault.
Trey Hardee, the reigning world champion who was second here, was properly awed.
"This is something that down the road, I'm going to tell my friends and kids and nephews: 'See that record? I was there, I got to talk to him, and I've got a picture to prove it,' " Hardee said.
Soon, Eaton is going to need a booking agent as badly as a coach. He speaks precisely, has flashing dark eyes and a broad smile. If this guy can't get track and field marketed, the sport has no hope.
He's even modest. Asked what he thought as he hit the finish line in the climactic 1,500 meters, which he hit at 4:14.48 (needing 4:16.23 to break Sebrle's standard), Eaton said, "I've worked so hard to do that, it's almost like I didn't want to do it, for some reason."
As Hayward moments go, it was top-shelf. There was a stadium-record 21,795 on hand and, if adulation wasn't already gushing, there were a handful of decathlon icons there as well — Olympic gold medalists like Rafer Johnson (1960), Bill Toomey (1968), Bruce Jenner (1976) and Dan O'Brien (1996).
Eaton grew up in the little central-Oregon town of LaPine, moved to Bend before high school and has been at the decathlon a mere five years. After his big pole vault — the eighth event — he caught up with his coach, Harry Marra, and they mapped plans for the javelin and 1,500.
"All right," Eaton said, "what do I have to do to get the American record?"
Marra set him straight. He gave him a formula for a world record.
"Let's go do it then," Eaton said.
The day's decathlon was a stark study in contrast for Beijing gold medalist Bryan Clay, who does occasional training in Seattle. Sports Illustrated, in a recent piece, cited Clay's spotty performance since '08 — often injured, he had finished only one decathlon since then — and delivered this cold but prescient line: "The sport's underground is skeptical that Clay will even complete the event at the trials."
Clay did finish, but only under duress. In the day's first event, the 110-meter hurdles, he lost his stride, pushed a hurdle over and was initially disqualified. Believing that to be the case when he stepped into the discus ring, he fouled and faulted for no points, and it was there that his bid for London came undone. On appeal, his hurdles mark, albeit a tepid 16.81, was allowed to stand.
"I want to kick myself a little bit now," said Clay. "The whole time I was throwing the discus, my mind just wasn't there."
He gutted it to the end, but finished 12th, and found himself alone on an interview podium that later would house the top three decathletes.
After two days of cloudbursts and wet runways, Hardee called it "the wettest decathlon I've ever done in my life."
Thanks to Eaton, it was also worth a few other superlatives.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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