EUGENE – Winning the 2013 world championship in the decathlon gave Ashton Eaton a free pass to this year’s world meet in Beijing. With the temperatures climbing near 100 degrees Thursday and Friday at Hayward Field, not having to compete in the grueling ten-event competition here at the U.S. Nationals is undoubtedly a good thing for the decathlon world record holder.
So Eaton and his long-time coach, Harry Marra, decided he should focus on one his best events, the long jump, and see what he could do against some of the best jumpers in the world.
“We thought it was kind of a bread and butter (event) which I like doing,” Eaton said last week. “I like doing the 100 and long jump going into competitions. And also (it's) my best chance to make the Pan American Games - and I also want to compete there.”
On this warm evening, though, the Hayward magic wasn’t there for Eaton. He finished the preliminary round in 14 th, which did not get him through to the finals.
Eaton’s best jump came on his first attempt. He hit the board perfectly and sailed out to a mark of 25-08.75. But he did not improve on either of his next two jumps, and, aided by a consistently strong trailing wind, there were no fewer than 12 jumpers over 26 feet. NCAA champion Marquis Dendy of Florida won the competition on his first attempt, with a wind-aided leap of 28-05.75.
The ever-gracious Eaton took the disappointment in stride, and said that it would give him extra motivation for the rest of his season.
“You can find advantages from doing bad,” Eaton said. “(I’m) very fired up right now. I was watching the decathlon guys run the 400 and I was like, man, I wish I had another event to take this out on.”
After his last jump, Eaton sat on the grass near the long jump runway, slowly putting his gear in his backpack. As the decathletes running the 400 rounded the final curve, Eaton suddenly jumped up and ran to the edge of the track, shouting encouragement as they passed him.
Asked what he yelled to his fellow decathletes, Eaton said that, even though he was not competing in the decathlon here, he was with them in spirit.
“Part of me is there, you know what I mean? I know what they are going through. I know the yelling doesn’t really do anything but I was just saying, ‘hey, wish I was there, you’re doing good, stay tough.’ “
Eaton admitted that he had been following how day one of the decathlon was going.
“It’s going really well. We have some guys that are coming on the scene. Good to see Trey (Hardee) doing stuff again . . . I know last year he was the best in the world. I’m just curious to see who is going to be going to Beijing with us. Who are they going to be?
Eaton said that he wanted to do pole vault at this meet, but he injured his back a few weeks ago. The “minor sprain” was enough to keep him out of the Hypo Meet at Gotzis, Austria a few weeks ago, but said that he was feeling fine now.
“I felt 100% normal today . . . I feel good, I guess you need these disappointments to get you fired up.
“I’m really looking forward to worlds.”
Earlier in the day, Summit High School graduate and UO recruit Matthew Maton scratched from the U.S. Junior Nationals 1500 meters. Maton is entered in Friday’s 5000 meter final, and is reportedly recovered from the achilles injury that kept him from racing in May.
In other action on Thursday, 2007 Bend High grad Kimber Mattox qualified for Saturday’s 3000 meter steeplechase final. Mattox ran 10:03.36 to grab the final qualifying spot.
The answer is yes . . . the future is always better for a decathlete up to 29 or 30 years of age if they can stay healthy
I'm never surprised with what Ashton does. I learned long ago never to put limits on anybody. Ashton is a very, very good athlete well-rounded person . . . eating ice cream sundaes and having fun (on the plane) - that was the goal - to be refreshed (not an exact quote)