Second by second, the clock to the side of that track ticked away – daring him to cross the finish line in a time that would put his name in the record books.
Eaton was every bit as relentless and stubborn as that clock Saturday.
He set a personal best in the exhausting 1,500-meter finale and is now the world-record holder in the decathlon – the cream of the crop in the event that determines the world’s best athlete.
Eaton finished with 9,039 points in the U.S. Olympic trials Saturday to beat Roman Sebrle’s 11-year-old mark by 13 points.
“This is just crazy,” Eaton said.
The 24-year-old University of Oregon product needed a time of 4 minutes, 16.37 seconds in the 1,500 to break the mark at the school’s Hayward Field.
He finished in 4:14.48.
When it was over, Eaton bent down and put his hands on his knees, then brought them up to cover his mouth – elated and shocked all at the same time.
A few minutes later, he took the mini American flag he’d been handed as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and stabbed it into the turf near the scoreboard on the field that displayed his accomplishment: “World Record Decathlon. Ashton Eaton. 9,039 points.”
“I wanted it to be a special event because this is my home state, my hometown, my home university,” he said. “And just from the start, I just wanted to perform well.”
What to do for an encore?
We’ll see in six weeks in London, where he’ll go in as the favorite, along with the man he beat, defending world champion Trey Hardee, who finished 656 points back.
“Going into London, I’m not going to change a thing,” Eaton said. “Clearly.”
Chances for an American medal sweep in London, thought to be a good possibility, were vanquished when defending Olympic champion Bryan Clay fell during the hurdles. He finished 12th.
Eaton opened the event Friday by setting world-best marks for the decathlon in his first two events, the 100 (10.21 seconds) and long jump (27 feet). He had a mark of 46 feet, 7 1/4 inches in shot put, cleared 6-8 3/4 in the high jump and ran the 400 in a driving rainstorm in 46.70 seconds to finish the first day in the mix for the world record.