training at UO
"For a professional athlete to be able to go from college, live in the same house, have the same coach and just transition to a professional environment is very unheard of," Theisen-Eaton said. "Most people are moving cities and going to different coaches and trying to find training groups." (Emerald Archives)
During a trip to Germany, Ashton Eaton approached a man wearing an Oregon track and field shirt.
“Do you know what that shirt is?,” Eaton said to him.
“No, it’s just I like green,” said the man, who knew little English.
Much like Oregon’s athletic department, Eaton and his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, have become international brands, winning various medals in competitions across the globe.
Nonetheless, the couple, alongside their coach, Harry Marra, continue to live and train together on the University of Oregon campus for the majority of the year. Last year, the Eatons took a three-month break from training. When they are not traveling for competitions or training in Santa Barbara – as they did in January and will continue to do in April and May – the couple trains in Eugene.
“For a professional athlete to be able to go from college, live in the same house, have the same coach and just transition to a professional environment is very unheard of,” Theisen-Eaton said at “TrackTown Tuesday” at Track Town Pizza in Eugene last week. “Most people are moving cities and going to different coaches and trying to find training groups.”
Both train for three to four hours each day with Marra, usually at Hayward Field and sometimes the Moshofsky Center. When weather plays a factor, an indoor facility under Hayward’s west grandstand provides shelter from the rain. Marra said that the campus facilities offer he and his athletes a comfortable environment.
“There may be places equal, but nothing better,” Marra said.
Life as a college track and field athlete includes coaches, meal money, paid trips and scheduled meets. Therefore, maintaining a stable living situation can be a considerable advantage for those who wish to continue their athletic careers after graduation.
“I think that’s probably had a lot to do with the success we’ve had early on as professional athletes, just kind of not interrupting the whole environment,” Theisen-Eaton said.
For nine years, living and training in Eugene has been especially beneficial for Ashton, who was not heavily recruited out of high school. By his sophomore season at Oregon, he was a national champion in the decathlon. Five years and one Olympic gold medal later, Eaton says that competing at Oregon facilitated his success in college and as a professional.
“As an athlete you come here and think ‘Oh the buildings they made are great,'” Eaton said, “but there’s something about the team aspect that’s just on a different level than other universities. They see student-athletes as a whole here and I think that really contributes to the success.”
Marra said that, along with athletic ability, the ability to handle problems is a major aspect of being successful as a professional and that having a stable environment like the Eatons is vital.
“Let’s say you didn’t have a couple of those,” Marra said, “you may just miss the Olympic gold medal. Maybe you’ll get the bronze or you won’t get anything.”
Both Ashton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton will compete overseas in Austria (May 30-31) and the IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Beijing (Aug. 22-30), before returning to Eugene to prepare for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.
No matter where they compete, however, the Eatons will continue to hang their hats in Eugene.
Follow Jack Heffernan on Twitter @JHeffy13