By Fred Delkin
University of Oregon’s Hayward Field has produced far more than its share of athletic feats that have resonated in international track & field lore for many decades. On Saturday, June 23, a new legend was born that may eclipse all that came before. Ashton Eaton, a native of little LaPine Oregon, set a new world record in the Decathlon and thus deservedly inherited the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete.” No other human being has matched Eaton’s combination of running, throwing and leaping in two days time. The venue that fostered Nike, Steve Prefontaine, coach Bill Bowerman and deserves the title ‘Track Town U.S.A.”. has again created an individual legend.
Eaton, a handsome devil who looks his part, will undoubtedly have his portrait on a Wheaties cereal box, following such luminaries as Jim Thorpe, Bob Mathias, Rafer Johnson and Bruce Jenner. His total of 9,039 points is only the second time someone has exceeded the 9,000 mark and eclipsed the previous world standard of 9,026 set by Roman Seberle of the Czech Republic in 2001. He earned over 1,000 points each in the pole vault, 100 meter dash, 100 meter hurdles and the long jump.
Eaton was embraced at the finish of the final event, the 1,500 meter run, by his mother Roslyn and his fiancée, Brianne Thiesen (who, wouldn’t you know it, is current University of Oregon pentathlon NCAA champion). A sellout crowd of 21, 795 spectators stood on their feet and roared Eaton through his final two 1,500 laps.
This drama was staged in adverse weather conditions, but cold and rain didn’t deter Eaton’s mission. This writer and millions of others were fortunate to witness this historic event live on television. No screenwriter or producer could have concocted a better plot!
The officials who choose a site for the U.S. Olympic trials would do well to declare Hayward Field as the permanent site for staging this every-four-years display of athletic achievement.
As Ashton Eaton demonstrated, a little dew doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm of our nation’s track & field aficionados who for decades have known that Hayward Field is the home of heroism.