Dubbed as the world’s greatest athlete, Ashton Eaton returned to Historic Hayward Field Friday to compete in the Oregon Twilight.
Eaton, a former Oregon standout decathlete, competed in the men’s 110 meter hurdles for Nike OTC Elite.
Eaton is the reigning Olympic and World Champion in the decathlon. With the Ducks he was a five-time NCAA Champion and the only athlete to win three consecutive NCAA decathlon titles. He also set the 2009 NCAA heptathlon record to lead Oregon to its first-ever NCAA Indoor Team Tile.
Born in Portland, Ore. and raised in La Pine, Ore. his greatest accomplishment as an athlete took place the last time he took the track at Hayward, when he set the world record in the decathlon at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
“I feel a lot older,” Eaton said on being back at Hayward. “There are a lot of things that passed and I’ve accomplished a lot. If I look back to the time I was sitting on the 1500 meter line getting ready for that, and I think of now, it feels like a lifetime.”
The first event of the evening for Eaton was the 110-meter relays. He faced off against a five-man field, including Oregon’s Devon Allen and Trevor Ferguson. As he was introduced the Hayward faithful roared in appreciation.
The event turned into a two-man race between Eaton and Allen, with Eaton holding off Allen at the finish. He crossed the finish line with a time of 13.47, beating his own Oregon Twilight record he set in 2011. Allen finished with a time of 13.77, leaving quite the impression on the former Duck.
“When I saw him run the hurdles early this year and then what he did in the spring game, its fairly obvious he is a competitor and a good athlete,” Eaton said. “I was excited to race against him and I wish him well next weekend in the Pac-12s.”
Allen shared that same type of enthusiasm towards Eaton.
“It was a lot of fun,” Allen said. “I wanted to get him, but second place to the world’s greatest athlete isn’t bad at all.”
The second event for Eaton was the men’s 4×400, where he raced as part of the Nike OTC Elite team. Eaton ran the opening leg, with teammates Elijah Greer, Harun Abda and Charles Jock rounding out the group.
“The relay is my favorite event besides the 400 meter hurdles,” Eaton said. “The OTC guys, we get to do something as a team for once. It’s a workout for us, but its also very fun.”
They raced against the UO Running Club and Oregon.
The Nike OTC Elite team was able to win the event thanks to strong running from all of the athletes. They finished with a time of 3:08.03, which was good enough for a new Twilight record.
After his final event and his duties with the media were over, Eaton left to head into the warmth under the western grandstands. As he walked he stopped to speak with two young fans and took a picture with them, reveling in his return where, for him, it all started.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur