Decathlete sets world record at U.S. Olympic Trials

Posted Sunday, Jun. 24, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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EUGENE, Ore. -- On a rainy Friday, they were all there, all the greats of U.S. decathloning.

Rafer Johnson. Bruce Jenner. Bill Toomey. Dan O'Brien.

And on Saturday, with the clouds parting almost on cue, 24-year-old Ashton Eaton of Bend, Ore., eclipsed them all.

Finishing first in seven of the 10 events, Eaton broke one of track and field's most storied world records, winning the U.S. Olympic trials in the decathlon with a score of 9,039.

The mark bettered the record of 9,026 set in 2001 by Roman Seberle of the Czech Republic and establishes Eaton as the favorite next month to follow in the golden footsteps of previous Olympic champions Johnson, Jenner, et al.

Texas ex Trey Hardee finished second in the event Saturday, scoring 8,383 to earn a place on his second Olympic team.

Needing to run the final event, the 1,500 meters, in 4:16.37 or better to break Seberle's record, Eaton rode the cheers of an adoring, knowledgeable Eugene track crowd to a 4:14.48 finish.

"I'm a big believer in the Hayward magic," Eaton said. "At 600 meters I knew there was no way I wasn't going to get the record."

Eaton was asked about the challenges of what's roundly considered track and field's toughest test.

"It's like living an entire lifetime in two days," he said. "It has ups and downs and comebacks. Everybody loves life, and it seems that's why people like it.

"The decathlon chooses you. You never chose it. I was attracted to the athleticism."

The decathlon was not without its surprises. Bryan Clay, the decathlon gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics, crashed into a hurdle on the day's opening event and was later disqualified. Clay was attempting to become the first decathlete to medal in three Olympic Games.

The day's other major surprise came in the finals of the women's 100 meters. Texas A&M product Jeneba Tarmoh out-leaned Beijing gold medalist Allyson Felix to earn the third and final spot in the 100.

Favored Carmelita Jeter won the event, while the clock caught Tarmoh in 11.068 seconds and Felix in 11.069.

University of Texas products Bianca Knight and Alex Anderson both made the finals, but did not finish in the top three. Knight finished fifth and Anderson was eighth.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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