NEW YORK (19-Jan) -- Over the last six years, Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee have established decathlon dominance for the U.S., developing a true friendship and fun rivalry in the process. Competing head-to-head in eight decathlons since 2008, they have split them 4-4. Both own important medals. Eaton won the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Championships gold, Hardee earned a pair of world titles in 2009 and 2011 along with an Olympic Silver medal from 2012.
With those credentials, it is easy to see why Eaton, 25, and Hardee, 29, are two of track and field's biggest stars. They are two of the headliners at the 107th NYRR Millrose Games at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory on February 15.
Through the decathlon -- a discipline that consists of 10 events played out over two days -- both Eaton and Hardee have developed a mutual respect and admiration of one another. At the NYRR Millrose Games, this will be on display as both square off in the pole vault. Both have identical bests in the event: 17 feet, 4.50 inches (5.30 meters).
"It's easy to get along with Ashton. It would be one thing if Ashton was a horrible guy, but he is a great guy so it's kinda hard not to like him," Hardee said.
"It's absolutely true," Eaton said. "That's just the typical mindset of a decathlete."
Speaking to members of the media, Eaton and Hardee described how the decathlon has molded their relationship as athletes, friends and competitors.
"I think it's less about us and more about the event that we do. The decathlon is so difficult and such a struggle, the work that you put into it, it can only be appreciated by the other guys who you are competing against," Hardee said. "You know what that other guy has gone through, so even if the other guy comes out on top, you know that he put in the work to do it and he should be respected because of that. I don't think there is any animosity towards successful decathletes."
Supporting each other over the past six years, Eaton and Hardee have carried on the American tradition of greatness in the decathlon. The United States has won 13 gold medals in the decathlon at the Olympic Games, including an active streak of two in a row. At the 2012 London Olympics, Eaton inspired millions with his 8,869 point performance, earning him the title of "World's Greatest Athlete."
Eaton admitted to keeping his Olymic hardware under his bed, having gone a long period of time since looking at it.
Another chapter in the pair's legacy looks to be made at the NYRR Millrose Games. Eaton and Hardee have very fond memories of both competing at The Armory and the prestigeous meet, now in its 107th year.
"It's always awesome," said Hardee, the excitement audible in his voice. "The energy that you get just walking on the street, the energy you get walking in The Armory, just the way you feel ... It's kind of the kickoff event for the indoor season and it's just one of those events, a staple that stands alone."
He continued: "To win at the Millrose Games and especially to win at The Armory is something you can kind of put in the bookshelf when your all said and done. I'm really really excited to get back and get the chance to compete again."
While at the University of Oregon, Eaton first competed on The Armory's famed fast oval in the 400 meters.
"It was awesome," recalled Eaton. "Having the fans in close -- the intimacy when you walk on and off the track -- you're right there next to the fans. You're running and can kind of hear the thunder on the 200 meter banked track that is elevated. That's always a nice feeling."
The last time Hardee and Eaton went head-to-head at the NYRR Millrose Games was in 2011, when the pair faced off in the Millrose Multi Challenge, made up of the shot put, 60-meter hurdles and high jump. Eaton claimed the title by 26 points over Hardee, 2,666 to 2,640.
On February 15, the next chapter of Eaton vs. Hardee will be written.
"You're mixing two greats," said Eaton, referencing both The Armory and the NYRR Millrose Games. "And I am excited to come back."