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Eaton's day 'a little surprising'

EUGENE, Ore. -- The best athletes in the world, and some of the best athletes in world history, could only shake their heads and smile in admiration. Ashton Eaton was that good at the U.S. Olympic trials Friday.

"Unbelievable," said reigning world triple jump champion Christian Taylor.

"The highlight for me," joked reigning decathlon world champion Trey Hardee.

"Phenomenal," said decathlon legend Bruce Jenner.

"A little surprising," said Eaton himself, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch or so apart.

This high-stakes, high-pressure track meet had scarcely started when Eaton set two decathlon world records. He opened the meet running a 10.21-second 100 meters, then sailed 27 feet on his only long jump attempt.

No one had ever run that fast or jumped that far in the history of the decathlon, a 10-event test of strength, endurance and speed. Eaton did it within an hour.

"What you witnessed was, of course, a great 100, great long jump," Eaton said as he cruised through the media area, giving a statement but not taking questions. "But what you're seeing is basically a culmination of everyone who supported me and got me to this point, and me fiercely trying to not let them down."

The former Oregon Duck, who went to high school in nearby Bend, Ore., grinned as he left. "See you tomorrow," he said.

The 24-year-old is all about tomorrow. Everybody knows that Eaton -- one of three medal hopefuls along with Hardee and defending Olympic champion Bryan Clay -- is the future of the decathlon in the United States. But on a wet day in his home state, Eaton might have signaled that the future is coming sooner than people thought.

Blessed with a sprinter's explosiveness, Eaton made the most of it from the opening gun. However, the 100 record wasn't a big surprise to anyone who's watched him develop.

"You kind of expected it," said 1996 decathlon gold medalist Dan O'Brien, who was here for a ceremony with U.S. gold decathlon legends Milt Campbell, Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey and Jenner.

Not that Eaton's time in the rain wasn't impressive, but it paled compared to his long jump effort. Eaton burst down the runway on his first jump, took off and, by the time he landed, had the Hayward Field crowd collectively gasping, then roaring with delight when the mark showed up on the scoreboard.

How good was it? The best U.S. long jump specialists, who competed in the first round of the event Friday, didn't come within a foot of Eaton's mark. "Aston's an animal," said Taylor, who is trying to make the U.S. team in the long jump as well as his specialty, the triple jump. "For him to jump longer than us long jumpers, it's nuts."

O'Brien agreed, especially given the weather. "To long jump 27 feet is good in any conditions," he said.

It's really good in the rain. It's even better when it's not your specialty.

The rain cooled Eaton down a bit as the day advanced, but he safely completed the first five events -- the shot put, high jump and 400 meters, in addition to the 100 and long jump -- with 4,728 points. He's on schedule to break the American decathlon record.

Meanwhile, Hardee, recovering from elbow surgery on his throwing arm, had a solid day himself, comfortably in second place and 300 points behind Eaton. Clay overcame a scary moment when his knee buckled in the long jump to come in third on the day.

Of course, the decathlon is fraught with peril, and the second day poses risks of falling in the 110-meter hurdles, not clearing a height in the pole vault or fouling on every throw in the discus and javelin.

The legends know this. "Ya gotta have a balance," Johnson said. "You don't win the medal by winning one or two events. You've got to be near the top at more than one event."

Jenner echoed Johnson's cautions. "Certainly a great start," said the man who's co-starred with both the Village People and the Kardashians. "But there's a long way to go."

Cautionary notes duly noted. But that was some sprint and some jump. And it was just part of a day full of positives. No American medal hopefuls crashed out, and another Oregon native, distance runner Galen Rupp, set an Olympic trials record (27 minutes, 25.33 seconds) in the 10,000 meters, looking nearly giddy on the final lap and like a medal possibility as he heads to London.

As good as Rupp was, he wasn't as impressive as Eaton on this day.

"I haven't seen many athletes like him," Taylor said.

No one has.