Ashton Eaton en route to a comfortable overnight lead at the 2010 US championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Eaton carries comfortable lead after day 1 in Eugene – IAAF Combined Events Challenge

Eugene, OregonAshton Eaton, in his first full Decathlon as a professional athlete, ran up a swift, efficient first day marred only by a somewhat sub-par Shot Put at the USA USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene on Thursday (24).

The 23-year-old University of Oregon graduate, who a year ago in his final collegiate performance set his personal best of 8457 while winning the NCAA Decathlon here, leads after the first five events with 4604 points, an eye-opening 408-point margin over 2008 Olympic champion Bryan Clay’s 4196.

Surprisingly close behind Clay were Edward Broadbent with 4175 (including a 2.14m High Jump), Miller Moss at 4128, Shot Put winner Jon Harlan with 4013, and newly crowned NCAA champion Mike Morrison with 3984. Defending champion Jake Arnold, trailing after the first four events, withdrew before the 400m.

Eaton began his day with a stunning 10.33 100m (+0.6), third all-time among decathlon hundreds only behind Chris Huffins’ 10.22 and Dan O’Brien’s 10. 32. Second was Clay, at 10.64, which gave Eaton a 1016 to 942 lead. Then Eaton piled it on with a 7.80m long jump (+3.1), adding another 110 points to his lead.

Eaton finished third in the Shot Put with 14.14m, normal for him, although perhaps a metre short of his expectations coming in. Clay, second in the shot at 14.25m, gained only seven points. Eaton and two others tied for second in the High Jump at 2.05m, and then the Oregonian simply seared the field with a 46.35 400m, a good 15 metres ahead of Moss, who was second in 48.06.

With his 408-point lead, a steady commonsense attitude toward competing, and a strong desire to make a statement before the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Eaton has made it hard to imagine anyone catching him in Friday’s five events.

Of course, as Dan O’Brien can tell you, there’s always the Pole Vault.

With an automatic entry for Daegu, reigning World champion Trey Hardee is not competing in the Decathlon, but will contest two open events over the weekend.

James Dunaway for the IAAF

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