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The world waking up to Canada's track and field league

Canada's national track and field league is becoming more than a domestic training ground.

The world's top ranked decathlete – American Ashton Eaton – will compete in the Harry Jerome International Track Classic set for June 10 at Swangard Stadium. Eaton will run in two or three events at the Jerome Classic as a final tune up before the U.S .Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., two weeks later.

It doesn't hurt that Eaton has a close Canadian connection. His fiancée is Brianne Theisen of Humboldt, Saskatchewan – who also happens to be the top female multi-event athlete in the world.

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Theisen, a senior at Eaton's alma mater of the University of Oregon, is currently ranked number one in the world with her score of 6,353 points established when she won her third Pac-12 championship May 6. The score surpassed the Olympic "A" qualifying standard of 6,150 points and Theisen hopes to compete for Canada at the London Games.

Eaton, the world record holder in the heptathlon indoors and currently ranked the number one decathlete in the world will use the National Track League kick-off event as part of his preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.

The University of Oregon graduate from Bend, Oregon is a five time NCAA Champion in both heptathlon and decathlon. The 6-foot 1-inch, 185 pound athlete won the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul this winter in a world record of 6,645 points.

In London he's expected to battle fellow American Trey Hardee, the decathlon world champion in both 2009 at Berlin and 2011 at Daegu, South Korea.

Their decathlon scores are very close with Hardee at 8,790 and Eaton at 8,729 points. The two U.S. decathletes plus Cuban Leon Suarez are podium favourites for the London Games.

Eaton will travel with coach Harry Marra to Vancouver on May 9 from Des Moines, Iowa where they will be at the NCAA championships to support Theisen.

The attraction for track stars goes beyond the Jerome meet. At the Donovan Bailey Invitational on June 16 in Edmonton, the 200-metre race will be headlined by two-time Olympic bronze and two-time world silver medalist Walter Dix of the United States. The strong field is expected to eclipse the 20-second barrier, a feat that has never been accomplished on Canadian soil.

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"This will be my first trip to Edmonton, and I am looking forward to seeing a part of Canada I've never been to," Dix said in a blog by former Olympic and Commonwealth coach and team physician Dr. Doug Clement.

"It will be great to line up against some of the world's top athletes and compete to the best of my ability."

Dix's remarkable 2011 season included being crowned 200-metre champion at the Memorial Van Damme Diamond League meet in Brussels. There he finished with one of the fastest performances in history: 19.53 seconds over 200 metres.

Dix will join many other Olympic hopefuls at Foote Field on June 16 for the third of six stops in the 2012 National Track League series. The Donovan Bailey Invitational (formerly called the Edmonton International Track Classic), gives athletes an opportunity to meet Olympic standard times prior to their Olympic trials.

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About the Author
Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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