EUGENE, Ore. – A capacity crowd of 300 fans gathered in the Downtown Athletic Club to bid a happy retirement to two of Eugene’s favorite Olympians, and look towards the future of two current University of Oregon standouts.
Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton headlined February’s TrackTown Tuesday event. The former Oregon Ducks talked about their Olympic experiences and were honored with videos of friends and fans from all around the world who shared pre-recorded video messages. The videos included anything from a favorite memory with the Eatons, to a simple “thank you.”
Some of the most notable video messages come from the Eatons’ longtime coach Harry Marra and former University of Oregon and Oregon Track Club teammate Andrew Wheating.
“Things are ending and you just realize how much support you have, and how many people care,” Theisen-Eaton said in response to the video messages.
The multi-event athletes have had a decorated career with three Olympic medals between the two of them. After years of dedication to the sport of track and field and countless hours spent training, the married couple made an announcement on Jan. 4 that they both would be stepping away from the sport that’s been their life for so long.
“This is who we’ve been for the last 12 or 15 years,” Theisen-Eaton said after the event. “It’s the identity we’ve created in the community we belong to, so stepping away from that is scary. But, at the same time it’s what we know is right.”
The Eatons are not 100 percent sure what is in store for them next. They say that they’ll “always be fans,” but may look to venture beyond the world of track and field going forward.
“I think after the retirement announcement, and even before that, we had done everything we could do in the sport and were wondering what else can we do outside of it,” Eaton said. “Maybe it’s the nature of what we did in track—multiple events, just having different things going on. We were kind of thinking ‘OK, what’s the next thing outside of sports?’”
Current Oregon Duck track and field athletes and Olympians Ariana Washington and Deajah Stevens preceded the Eatons on stage.
They also shared their memories from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and expressed their future goals now that they have already accomplished so much.
“When I first came to Oregon, I had a set of goals and they were all kind of out of order,” Stevens, the NCAA 200-meter runner up and Olympic 200-meter finalist, said. “This year I’m just focused on coming in and really getting on the goals that I set, and trying to accomplish them all.”
For Washington, the defending NCAA 100- and 200-meter champion, she would love to defend her titles, but her main goals are team-based.
“I want the team to do really well,” Washington said. “I want us to go out there and score the most points that any school has ever scored and just bring home the title.”
Although Washington’s hopes of scoring the “most points that any school has ever scored” may be a difficult feat to accomplish, TrackTown USA President and head coach of the 2016 U.S. Olympic men’s track and field team Vin Lananna is confident in the athletes that Oregon has been able to produce.
“We first put together a plan for what were going to do at the University of Oregon,” Lananna said. “We talked about having the most dominant track and field program ever assembled in the history of the NCAA. I think were getting there, don’t you think?”
The next TrackTown Tuesday event will be held on March 7 at the Downtown Athletic Club.