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Oregon heptathlete Ashton Eaton sets world record

Oregon's Ashton Eaton reacts as he crosses the finish line to place third in the 1,000 meters competition

Ashton Eaton’s teammates tried to keep quiet as he approached a world record in the heptathlon — as if the Oregon senior was somehow unaware of how close he was to Dan O’Brien’s mark.

“I think everybody thought I didn’t know. At least my teammates were trying to be like, ‘Shhh, don’t tell,” Eaton said. “I was like, ‘Come on, you know something like that.”

Eaton broke O’Brien’s 17-year-old mark Saturday at the NCAA indoor track and field championships, finishing the seven-sport event with 6,499 points. With the crowd on its feet urging him on, Eaton surpassed the old record of 6,476 by running a personal best in the 1,000 meters.

Eaton finished the 1,000 in 2 minutes, 32.67 seconds, nearly two seconds faster than needed for the world mark. His previous career best was 2:38.02.

“I didn’t think I was going to have what it took to get it,” Eaton said. “I was like … ‘I guess I’m just going to run as fast as I can.”

Eaton’s performance wasn’t quite enough to lift Oregon to the team title, which went to Florida. Oregon did win the women’s title, although the top performance of the night was probably by Hampton’s Francena McCorory, who set an American record of 50.54 in the 400.

“I just kind of got to the 200 and just dropped the hammer and pressed it,” she said. “When I got to the 300, I was like ‘go, go, go’ in my head.”

Georgia’s Torrin Lawrence won impressively in the men’s 400 in 45.23.

Florida’s Jeff Demps, who also plays football for the Gators, won the 60 in 6.57.

“The whole race, I was just thinking about getting 10 points so we would have a better chance of getting the team title,” Demps said.

Texas-El Paso’s Blessing Okagbare took the women’s 60 in 7.172 — three thousandths of a second ahead of Texas A&M’s Gabby Mayo. Okagbare also won the long jump the previous day.

The Florida men finished with 57 points. Texas A&M and defending indoor champion Oregon tied for second at 44.

Oregon won the women’s race convincingly, finishing with 61 points. Defending champion Tennessee was second with 36. The Florida men and Oregon women each won the indoor title for the first time.

Brianne Theisen of Oregon gave her team an early boost Saturday, winning the pentathlon with 4,396 points.

“I definitely felt the pressure. I knew we needed those 10 points,” she said. “In the end, we probably didn’t, but at the time I thought we did.”

Oregon also won the women’s 1,600 relay in 3:32.97. Texas A&M was the men’s champion in 3:04.40.

Florida’s Christian Taylor won the men’s triple jump at 56 feet, 4½ inches. The women’s competition went to Florida State’s Kimberly Williams at 45-9 1/4.

Oklahoma’s Ronnie Ash took the 60 hurdles title in 7.56, and Queen Quedith Harrison led a 1-2 finish for Virginia Tech on the women’s side, finishing in 7.95.

Lee Emanuel of New Mexico won the men’s mile in 3:59.26, and Charlotte Browning of Florida won the women’s race in 4:35.66.

Walter Henning of LSU took the weight throw with a toss of 77-3 3/4, and Derek Drouin of Indiana won the high jump at 7-5 3/4.

Robby Andrews of Virginia beat Andrew Wheating of Oregon by one hundredth of a second in the 800, finishing in 1:48.39. Phoebe Wright of Tennessee took the women’s race in 2:02.55.

Dorian Ulrey of Arkansas won the men’s 3,000 in 8:10.52, and Angela Bizzarri of Illinois took the women’s race in 8:57.40.

Duke’s Curtis Beach finished 12th in the heptathlon, but he ran the 1,000 in 2:27.88, which is believed to be the fastest anyone in the world has run a heptathlon 1,000.

The heptathlon includes the 60, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60 hurdles, pole vault and 1,000. Eaton was the meet’s top performer in four of the first five sports Friday and Saturday, putting himself in a position to make a run at O’Brien’s record.

After breaking that mark, Eaton came back later to run in the 1,600 relay, although Oregon finished sixth.

Theisen was competing in the pentathlon long jump while Eaton ran his heptathlon 1,000. It was a welcome distraction.

“Right between my first and second jumps, I was screaming at him the entire time,” she said. “I think I jumped so well because I wasn’t even thinking about the long jump. I just did it.”

—NOAH TRISTER

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