A Classy World Record
There was a world record set on day two of the 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene. Ashton Eaton had one of those days. Except in his case it was spread over two days. After a recent Runner’s World article touted his potential to be the World’s Greatest Athlete by setting a new world record in the decathlon, the twenty-four year old Eaton had a great deal of pressure on his shoulders as he attempted to qualify for his first Olympic Games.
The first day of the decathlon went quite well for Eaton as he set decathlon PR’s in the 100 meters (10.21), long jump (27’0”), and shot put (47’7.25”) and tied his PR in the high jump (6’8.75”). The only event he did not set a decathlon PR in was his best and favorite event, the 400 meters (46.70). His marks in the 100 and long jump were decathlon world records. His point total at the end of day one was 4,728, putting him on pace to finish ahead of Dan O’Brien’s American Record pace.
However, Eaton’s strength is the sprinting events and his weakness is the throwing events. Day two would include two of his weaker events, the discus and javelin. He started day two with only a so-so performance in the 110 hurdles (13.70). That would be his last so-so performance of the meet. He set decathlon PR’s in the discus (140’5”), pole vault (17’4.5”), and javelin (193’1”). After nine events he had amassed 8,189 points. He was now just 702 points from O’Brien’s American Record. However, Eaton was also only 837 points away from Roman Sebrle’s (Czech Republic) 2001 World Record. Eaton needed to run a 4:16 to become the new World Record holder.
The crowd at Eugene’s Hayward Field was abuzz as the men’s decathlon 1500 was about to get underway. The crowd was ready to cheer loudly for Eaton, a former University of Oregon athlete and a native of Oregon (he grew up in Bend, Oregon). Duke’s Curtis Beach, a very strong 1500 meter runner, immediately took the lead. Joe Detmer moved into second place and Eaton pulled into third place. After 400 meters, Eaton was right on pace to run a 4:16. After two laps he was still right where he needed to be. With each lap, the crowd got more energized. With a lap to go, he was a few seconds off pace but that’s when he started to speed up. As Eaton surged down the backstretch I thought to myself, “he’s a 46 second 400 guy, he should have a good kick.” With about 200 meters to go he caught up to Detmer but that’s when Detmer started his own kick. This was excellent because it gave Eaton someone to chase after.
With 100 meters to go I checked the clock and felt pretty certain that we were about to witness history. Eaton swung out into lane two for a final sprint to the finish line and the record books. Fifty meters to go is the moment I will always remember. Beach, who had been leading the race from the gun moved out into lane three and was actually slowing down. He turned around to check Eaton’s progress and I could see Beach wave his arms, encouraging Eaton over the final few meters. What a classy move! Eaton passed Detmer and raced across the line to finish in first in yet another decathlon PR (4:14.48). Detmer was second and Beach was third. To a casual track fan the 1500, the final event of the decathlon, can be confusing. The person who finishes this final race is often not the overall decathlon winner. More times than not the overall winner of the decathlon is buried in an unglamorous middle of the pack in the 1500. But Beach wanted Eaton to cross the finish line first in the 1500, the final event of the decathlon, as he set a new World Record. I love that he recognized the significance of the moment and his opportunity to do something for Eaton. In this photo taken by Paul Merca, Beach and Detmer have huge smiles on their faces. They are extremely happy for their fellow decathlete and his achievement. In another photo that the Oregon Track Club Elite tweeted, you can see Beach pumping his fist in excitement as Eaton gets the record.
I will remember witnessing this world record and class act for a long time. Congratulations to Ashton Eaton on a new decathlon world record of 9039 points. Thank you to Curtis Beach for a heartwarming moment where you showed you are one classy person.