Eaton Wins Decathlon with 8,055 Points

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Ashton Eaton used personal bests in the javelin and discus a big finish in the 1,500 meters to come from behind and win the decathlon Thursday at the 2008 NCAA Track & Field Championships. Sophomores Andrew Wheating and Zoe Buckman also each won their respective semifinal heats in the 800 meters at Drake Stadium to advance to Saturday's finals.

Eaton scored 8,055 points, third all-time at Oregon, and became just the 62nd American to score 8,000 points in the decathlon. He joined Santiago Lorenzo (2001) as the only other NCAA decathlon champion from Oregon. The sophomore from Bend, Ore., came into the final event trailing Tennessee's Jangy Addy by 55 points, but he ran a 4:33.05 to earn 725 points and pass Addy, who ran 5:05.13 in the event for 531 points.

Addy finished second with 7,916 points, while Florida State's Gonzalo Barriolhet was third with 7,907 points. "I think I'm still in a state of shock right now," said Eaton. "I'm excited to get 8,000 (points). "I just tried to stay level-headed," added Eaton of his Olympic Trials "A" standard mark. "I tried not to think too much and let my coach help me, and it worked out."

Eaton, who earned his first outdoor All-America award and third overall, set up his finish in the 1,500 with career performances in the discus and the javelin.

He opened Thursday by finishing third in the 110 meter hurdles in a time of 14.27. He then notched a personal best in the discus with a throw of 131-feet 1-inch, which ranked 13th overall and cleared 15-1 to tie for sixth in the pole vault.

His run back to the top began in the javelin, where he threw a 28-foot career best 176-11 (ninth overall) to earn 647 points and close to with in 55 of Addy heading to the 1,500. Eaton's 1,500 time was third overall.

"Going into the 1,500, we had a plan," said associate director of track and field Dan Steele. "It wasn't just to cover the spread and beat Addy, but also to get 8,000 points, because those opportunities don't come along that often. This is just a glimpse of he future," said Steele. "He's ready to take it to a new level."

On the Oregon career lists, Eaton's total was third only behind a pair of 1992 marks: Pedro deSilva's 8,167 points and Muhammad Oliver's 8,087. His mark came is just his fifth collegiate decathlon.

Before Eaton's win, Wheating ran his 2008 winning streak to 11 straight as he edged Jacob Hernandez of Texas by .03 seconds in his closest race of the outdoor season. The sophomore from Norwich, Vt., ran 1:47.15 in the faster of the two 800 heats. Hernandez came across in 1:47.60, followed by Elias Koech of Texas-El Paso (1:47.60) and Elkana Kosgei of Louisiana State (1:47.88). He held his becomimg-famous kick until late in the race, but it still carried him through to the win.

"I was feeling great just sitting back at the start," said Wheating. "I was told to go on the last turn so I just let it out the last 50 meters."

Buckman patiently bided her time in the pack before breaking with 50 meters remaining to win her heat in a time of 2:03.64. The sophomore from Canberra, Australia, had the fastest semifinal time in advancing to Friday's final.

"I got caught in the pack, but didn't panic," said Buckman. "I told myself I still had them so I waited for my break to come."

Buckman got to the line just before Becky Horn of Western Michigan, who finished in 2:03.73. "Zoe and Andrew looked great," said director of track and field Vin Lananna. "They did just what they needed to do. Both 800 finals will be very exciting races. And what a fabulous performance by Ashton." Both Buckman and Wheating will be the top seeds in Saturday's finals.

"Andy and I are the newbies on the scene, so we're just having fun," said Buckman.

"Zoe has a great chance to win and I'm going try to just keep running my race so it's kind of cool to have the two of us together in the finals," said Wheating.

One of the women's favorites, California's Alysia Johnson was a late scratch in Buckman's heat due to an injury. Johnson was the defending champion in the event and won the 2008 NCAA West Regional and Pac-10 championship.

Earlier Thursday, Rachel Yurkovich advanced to Saturday's final of the women's javelin by finishing fourth in her preliminary flight with a throw of 167-1. Her throw was the seventh overall.

"Just wanting to get through to the next round, it was a little hard to get excited for today," said Yurkovich. "It wasn't my best performance.

"It almost felt like a practice," she the junior from Newberg, Ore. "I don't throw 50 meters in practice, so I guess it was a good practice. But it's good to be able to forget about today and move on."

In the team race, the Oregon men stood tied for second with 10 points. Florida State led with 16. On the women's side, Stanford had 11 points, one better than Mississippi and Iowa State.

Thursday marked the last day of competition for a number of Ducks, and none suffered more heartbreak in not advancing than sophomore A.J. Acosta. The Oceanside, Calif., native almost fell on lap 2 before recovering to finish eighth in the faster semifinal heat. But his time of 3:43.859 was .003 slower than Notre Dame's Kurt Benninger, who ran 3:43.856 in the first heat to gain the 12th and last entry into Saturday's final.

Two other Duck individuals concluded their seasons Thursday. Senior Phil Alexander ran fifth in his preliminary heat of the men's 200 meters in a time of 21.43 and freshman Alexandra Kosinski took 12th in her women's 1,500 meter semifinal in a time of 4:29.01. Also, the men's 4x400 relay team, consisting of Marcus Dillon, Alexander, Justin Cross and Chad Barlow, ran sixth in its preliminary heat in a time of 3:11.51.

On Friday, Oregon will have Nicole Blood and Sarah Pearson in the finals of the women's 5,000 meters and Alex Wolff and Mike Simmons in the men's javelin finals. Melissa Gergel will compete in the finals of the women's pole vault, Colin Veldman will throw in the finals of the men's hammer and Chris Winter runs in the final of the men's 3,000 meter steeplechase. Friday will also mark the first day of competition for Oregon heptathletes Brianne Theisen and Kalindra McFadden.

Hotel update: Moving more times than Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in "My Cousin Vinny," the Oregon contingent relocated for the final time -- hopefully -- on Thursday. After being flooded out of the Embassy Suites on the River by the Des Moines River, the team spent Wednesday night at the EconoLodge. Thursday, the Ducks moved into two hotels, the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites and the Marriott, closer to Drake Stadium.

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