WALNUT, Calif. – Ashton Eaton learned the hard way that experience often trumps talent and athleticism.
The reigning Olympic gold medalist and current world record holder in the decathlon competed in the 400-meter hurdles for the first time in his life at the Mt. SAC Relays on Saturday and finished fourth in 50.01 seconds.
Washington State graduate Jeshua Anderson won the race in 49.43 seconds.
“I had no expectations,” Eaton said. “It was very interesting. It was different.”
Eaton declared his intention to compete in the 400 hurdles last fall, but said he never practiced the event leading up to Mt. SAC.
“This was the first time. I did 300 meters in practice once,” he said. “I still train as a decathlete, but sometimes I just throw hurdles in front of my workouts I guess.”
When he crossed the finish line, Eaton simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“We wanted to try it and Mt. SAC was kind enough to let us try it here, so now we see where we go,” Eaton said. “I feel confident that I can compete. If I get my steps down, I think I’ll be pretty good to go.”
While Eaton was the headliner of the 56th annual daylong event, Oregon senior Phyllis Francis stole the show.
Francis defeated Olympic medalists DeeDee Trotter and Lashinda Demus in the 400 earlier in the day, claiming the Elite Invitational title in 51.57.