Eaton rethinks career choice

SUNDAY, MARCH 28, 2010

World record helps track aspirations

Funny how a world record can change one’s perspective.

“I think it means track just got a lot more serious for me,” laughed Ashton Eaton, marveling that, at least for the time being, his name will be linked to the words “heptathlon world-record holder.”

The Oregon senior broke Dan O’Brien’s 17-year-old mark in the seven-event track and field discipline at the NCAA Indoor championships earlier this month.

All of a sudden, he’s not just looking like the man to beat in the decathlon when the Ducks host the NCAA Outdoor championships in June, he’s looking at making track a career. He’s looking at a serious bid for the London Olympics in 2012.

In just two short days in Fayetteville, Ark., everything changed.

“Looking forward, it’s cool to know that potentially I could do track after college – because I love track, you know?” he said. “But it also makes me a little nervous because I reached this level so far ahead of where I thought I would.”

Eaton scored 6,499 points, surpassing O’Brien’s previous indoor best of 6,476 set in Toronto in 1993.

The men’s heptathlon includes the 60-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60 hurdles, pole vault, and 1,000 meters.

To put Eaton’s record in context, Olympic gold medalist Bryan Clay defended his heptathlon title at the world indoor championships in Qatar earlier this month and scored 6,204 points. Runner-up Trey Hardee scored 6,184.

Even Eaton was stunned.

“It’s almost like nothing was going through my head. I didn’t know how to think,” he said. “This accomplishment sprung on me so fast and it surprised me so much, that it was like ’I don’t know what to do.”’

So he excitedly called his mom from the infield. She normally watches her son’s meets via the Internet, but she was busy that day visiting Eaton’s grandfather.

“She goes, ‘Wait, wait, wait. You mean like the meet record? The American record?’ ” Eaton said. “I said, ‘No mom. I broke the WORLD RECORD – the never-been-done-before record.’ ”

Eaton was just 5 when O’Brien (University of Idaho) set the mark, and it frankly didn’t occur to him that he’d break it – especially while in college.


Click here to comment on this story »