Eaton sets record pace on first day of decathlon
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- On a day when track and field celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first Olympic decathlon, Oregon native and former Ducks star Ashton Eaton was setting records in the event.
Then again, the damp and dreary conditions at the Olympic trials Friday night were his type of weather.
Eaton's leap of 27 feet in the long jump was a world record in the decathlon, as was his sprint of 10.21 seconds in the 100 meters.
After five events on Friday, Eaton led the decathlon with 4,728 points, a total that was 17 points ahead of Dan O'Brien's pace when he set the American record in 1992.
Trey Hardee was second with 4,406 points and defending Olympic gold medalist Bryan Clay had 4,252 points.
The remaining events will take place Saturday.
Eaton didn't speak much after completing the 400 in a downpour, except to thank all his friends and family for helping him get this far.
But as he was walking off, a reporter asked if he was surprised with his day.
"A little bit," Eaton said, smiling.
O'Brien was more direct.
"I would describe it as one of the best first days I've ever seen," he said.
Fittingly, the sport was celebrating the decathlon's first appearance in the Olympics in 1912. The winner of the first gold was Jim Thorpe. His sons, along with the six American Olympic gold medalists in the event, were honored at the opening of the U.S. track trials at Hayward Field.
"I walk a lap here at Hayward Field, and it brings tears to my eyes," said O'Brien, who won gold in 1996. "I get very nostalgic."
O'Brien still holds the American record in the decathlon, scoring 8,891 points in 1992. He said when he was younger he was more protective of the mark, but his feelings have changed.
"It's about time. I want someone to score high," he said. "Records were meant to be broken."
Eaton is the world record holder in the heptathlon, and was runner-up to Hardee at the 2011 world championships in South Korea. From Bend, Ore., he was a three-time NCAA decathlon champion while at Oregon.
Hardee said he fully expects something special for Eaton on Saturday.
"I think everybody's anticipating the American record tomorrow," Hardee said. "So when it happens, we'll all be there to cheer him on."
HURDLE CLEARED: On her left shoe, 100-meter hurdler Joanna Hayes placed a sticker with her daughter's name, Zoe.
On her right, she placed another with the date of her birth - 12-11-10.
Those are reminders for the 35-year-old Hayes to focus when times get tough. Like on Friday when she got a late start out of the blocks.
Hayes, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, shifted it into high gear midway through the race and finished third in her heat to advance.
"I feel like I got some cobwebs out," said Hayes, who postponed retirement to try and make one more Olympic team. "But I really have to respond to the gun. All I saw were feet."
Hayes wasn't the only big name to advance on to the semifinals. Reigning Olympic champion Dawn Harper moved on, as did Lolo Jones, Kellie Wells, Danielle Carruthers and Virginia Crawford.
"It was the prelims, so I was just trying to make it through," Jones said. "There's a lot of room for improvement."
RAINING ON HER PARADE: Discus thrower Stephanie Brown-Trafton saw the weather forecast for rain and her heart sank.
The surprise 2008 Olympic gold medalist hasn't competed well in wet conditions in recent meets. At the end Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago, she slipped and fell on all of her throws.
Brown-Trafton then tumbled on her first throw at trials. The nerves and anxiety began setting in. She fell on her next throw, too, but still managed to throw it out there far enough to advance.
A big sense of relief and freed her up to launch her best throw of the day on her third attempt (206 feet, 1 inch). Like that, she's moving on to the finals on Sunday.
"It was a rough start," Brown-Trafton said. "I'm just so emotional about it. I know I'm going to come back and have an awesome throw in the final, hopefully in better conditions."
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