Team Eaton opens at Sam Adams Invite

EUGENE, Ore. – Team Eaton has landed in sunny California this week.

The Oregon Track Club Elite triumvirate of multi-event coach Harry Marra and his star pupils, Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton, has set up training camp for the next six weeks at Westmont College in Santa Barbara to prepare for the 2014 outdoor track and field season.

ashton-eaton-trainingFor Eaton, the 26-year-old Olympic gold medalist and World Champion in the decathlon, it will be a chance to emotionally and physically recharge after three years of intense competition.

“The pressure is off,” said Eaton, the world-record holder in the decathlon and indoor heptathlon. “I can take a deep breath and not have to worry about so much.”

There will be no decathlons for Eaton this summer. Instead, he’ll compete in selected events throughout the season, with a tantalizing turn in a brand new event – the 400-meter intermediate hurdles.

Last week, after a promotional meeting in Corvallis, he had his first day of training as a non-decathlete with an intermediate hurdles session at the Whyte Track & Field Center at Oregon State University.

“It was fun,” Marra said. “This is new territory, so let’s see how far we can take this thing. No expectations. Just whack it as hard as we can and have a good time. By not carrying the full weight of the decathlon, I think this is going to be a really fun year (for Ashton).”

By contrast, Theisen-Eaton is targeting two major heptathlons.

Oregon Track Club Elite’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton celebrates a high jump clearance en route to winning the heptathlon at the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, Austria last year. Photo by Bjorn Paree

The IAAF World Championship silver medalist, indoors and outdoors, plans to defend her heptathlon title in the prestigious Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria, May 31 and June 1. She will conclude her season at the Commonwealth Games, July 29-30, in Glasgow, Scotland.

There are 70 national federations in the Commonwealth Games Association, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and South Africa.

“I’ve never been to the Commonwealth Games, so I’m looking forward to that,” Marra said. “I know there’s a sense of national pride for Bri in that meet, and she’ll be a title contender (in the heptathlon). She’s also the defending champion at Götzis, so that will be a highlight.”

Team Eaton is scheduled to open up the outdoor season as “guest athletes” at the Sam Adams Combined Events Invitational at Westmont College on Friday. According to Marra, Eaton is scheduled to run the 100m and 400m, while Theisen-Eaton is entered in the 100-meter hurdles and shot put. Saturday’s events have not yet been determined.

They will also choose individual events at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, Calif., on April 18 and the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., on April 19.

They’re scheduled to return to Eugene for the Oregon Twilight Meet at Hayward Field on May 9. It will be their first competition on their home track in nearly two years.

Marra said Eaton could make his highly anticipated debut in the 400 hurdles at either of the two meets in Southern California, or he might wait until the UO Twilight.

“Ash wants to get in really good 400 shape and carry that over into the hurdles,” Marra said. “The Bryan Clay meet could be the perfect spot to open up; I just don’t know yet.”

Eaton last competed at Hayward Field when he broke the world record in the decathlon with 9,039 points at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials on June 23.  It has been an even longer absence for Theisen-Eaton, who last appeared at Hayward Field in the 2012 Pac-12 Multi-Event Championships on May 5-6. She set the conference record and surpassed the Olympic “A” qualifying standard with 6,353 points in winning her third straight league title.

At the UO Twilight, besides individual events, Marra said it’s possible that Eaton will run on OTC Elite’s 4x400m relay and Theisen-Eaton would run on OTC Elite’s distance medley relay.

“They are both really excited to get back to Hayward Field,” Marra said.

After their next stop at an American Track League meet in Austin, Texas on May 23, Eaton plans to head back to TrackTown USA for the Prefontaine Classic on May 31, while Marra and Theisen-Eaton travel to Götzis.

Team Eaton will reunite for a National Track League meet in Toronto on June 11 before Eaton competes in the adidas Grand Prix Diamond League meeting in New York City on June 14.

Theisen-Eaton, meanwhile, will begin preparations for the Canadian National Championships, June 27-29, in Moncton. She won’t have to do a full heptathlon, so she’ll only compete in selected events.

After that meet, Eaton will head directly to Europe for a series of potential competitions. Marra and Theisen-Eaton will return to Eugene before catching up with Eaton at their training base near Belgium.

Theisen-Eaton’s final tune-up for the Commonwealth Games will be a meet in Heusden, Belgium on July 19.