Inside Scoop: The Next Big Thing

Posted on by Tim
As aggressive “storm the field” moves go, this one was pretty mild. When last we spoke, I was just about to go over the wall onto Goldman Field at the Pac-10 Track & Field Combined Championships – right here in front of the literally dozens of fans who had gathered at Cal-Berkeley’s Edwards Stadium on this rainy-turned-sunny day. And if you were thinking “vault the railing and dash”, well hold onto that thought. In actuality it was “climb the little set of stairs set up specifically for this purpose and amble”. No matter. I was up close and personal with the action. I felt faster and stronger by simple proximity.


In preparation for my big move, I had spent some time on the stadium rail, taking in the women’s 800 meter run. This was the seventh and final event making up the heptathlon, and despite a long two days of competition, the ladies looked completely fresh as they lined up to start. Oregon’s Brianne Theisen had pretty much wrapped up the heptathlon title already, assuming she ran a decent 800 meters. There was a lot of bunching in the standings behind her though, and a lot was at stake. Not only did the heptathlete’s finish count toward their team’s overall point total in the upcoming Pac-10 Track & Field Championships, but a trip to the NCAA Heptathlon Championship was on the line.
Two minutes and 14 seconds later it was over, and Ryann Krais, a sophomore from UCLA had won the race, finished second overall in the heptathlon, and probably secured a trip to the nationals. I’m not an expert, but I’m thinking that her 5,426 points was an improvement over her previous season best of “NP”, as listed on the Pac-10’s website. “No Points”? “New Participant”? “Nuclear Proliferator”? Whatever the case, I was inspired to carry out my own dash.

An exhausted but happy Ryann Krais

Along the rail…up the three step ladder …down the six steps onto the field…casual saunter over to where other interlopers had gathered to watch the men’s pole vault competition. I WAS IN! Then again, so was virtually every one of the 75 or so fans that had ventured out to take in the competition that day – a group comprised almost exclusively of friends and loved ones. It was like crashing a family picnic where instead of lawn darts, the game of choice was launching yourself 16 feet in the air with a pole.

Speaking of which…For my money, pole vaulting has to be the most humbling of sports. There are no degrees of success on any given attempt – you either clear the bar or you have failed. And if things don’t go so well, you have a split second as you lie sprawled on the mat to reflect on your failure before the bar and/or your own pole most likely come crashing down on top of you. It brings to mind that scene in Airplane! where everybody on the flight lines up to slap the hysterical woman.

ASU's Marcinko clears 15' 11"

With that in mind, I was captivated by the efforts of Jeremy Marcinko, a freshman from Arizona State. As the height of the bar was inexorably raised, one athlete after another eventually failed on each of their three attempts to clear it, thus retiring from the competition. Marcinko crashed and burned on his first two attempts – sometimes badly – before somehow or another pulling it together and crossing the bar on his third and final attempt at one height after another, after another. It was a seminar on persistence, and when it was over he had out-vaulted all but one competitor. Ashton Eaton. Yes, that Ashton Eaton.

You mean you haven’t heard of Ashton Eaton? Truth be told, neither had I prior to that day. But now that I’ve seen him I can’t for the life of me figure out why he has such a low profile. Ever since the days of Jim Thorpe, the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete” has been bestowed upon the man who is the reigning Olympic Decathlon Champion. Does the name Bruce Jenner ring a bell? His gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics catapulted him onto Wheaties boxes and into Household Name status (for a good, i.e. pre-Kardashian reason). Bryan Clay is the current “WGA”, having won the decathlon in Beijing in 2008, but when the London Olympics rolls around in 2012 he will be 32 years old. You read it here first – Ashton Eaton, presently of the University of Oregon, will take Clay’s place. Everything seems to come easy to him. Of the ten events that make up the decathlon, he won seven – and several by wide margins. He’s charismatic, he’s telegenic. And the name? Are you kidding me? It’s right out of celebrity central casting. The man has presence.

Eaton's winning pole vault

None of this was news to Terry Taylor, aka the RV Goddess (www.rvgoddess.com). I got to chatting with this Oregon resident and huge fan of Ducks track & field, and found that in addition to being pretty much unbeatable in the decathlon, Eaton also holds a little thing called the world’s record in the indoor heptathlon. Terry verified that yes indeed, he is the total package and that on top of it all, “he’s a really nice guy”. It barely seems fair to the rest of the male population.

Ashton Eaton - Future WGA

10 Responses to Inside Scoop: The Next Big Thing

  1. I just don’t understand the last two paragraphes, can anybody help?

  2. flower tea says:

    Hi,Thanks for leading me to your Blog from a comment left on my Blog, some great stuff here, will bookmark it, Thanks again!

  3. ben wales says:

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

  4. Backlinks says:

    Keep up the good work. Everyone is entitled to there opinion. Excellent blog here, i am still reading :)

  5. Unbelievable, that’s precisely what I was scanning for! You just spared me alot of digging around

  6. When I search for blogs I never know what I will find and that is half of the fun of it really. I was surprised I ran across yours though. It is excellent writing though. You have talent in there – keep it up.

  7. I do not usually leave messages on these blogs but yours stuck out to me! I appreciate your insight and information you gave. I look forward to reading more.

  8. Pingback: The Olympic Decathlon Trials: My New Favorite Record Store « It's Game Time Somewhere

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>