Ayden Owens Wins NCAA Heptathlon Title

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – In fourth place with one event remaining in the seven-event heptathlon, Razorback and former North Allegheny track and field standout Ayden Owens, did the impossible to capture his first NCAA Indoor title by 11 points on Saturday at the Birmingham CrossPlex.

Producing a four-second career best in the 1,000m, Owens’ 2:31.55 scored 970 points and generated a final score of 6,211 points, the second-best winning score in NCAA history.

“Ayden is a special athlete and a great competitor,” Arkansas men’s head coach Chris Bucknam said. “I’m really, really proud of his effort. For him to battle back like he did, and then run that 1,000m in which he had to beat the Georgia athlete by 13.5 seconds, and to do that with a four-second PR it’s the epitome of what a Razorback athlete is all about.

“For him to set the stage for us today was outstanding.”

The time of 2:31.55 by Owens in the 1,000m, which most combined event athletes dread, is the fastest ever by someone scoring over 6,200 points in the heptathlon. The previous best time in a heptathlon score over 6,200 was 2:32.67 by Oregon’s Ashton Eaton in the 2010 NCAA Indoor held in Fayetteville.

“Just the perseverance of him, it’s easy to be great when things are going well,” said Arkansas associate head coach Travis Geopfert. “The real challenge of character and showing who you are when things aren’t perfect. What are you going to do? He showed what he’s made of. It was an epic performance.

“In my 20 years of coaching I don’t know if I’ve ever seen what Ayden did in terms of execution of the plan. Then the guts to go for it. I’m so impressed with him and proud of him.”

The fastest 1,000m in a heptathlon includes Curtis Beach of Duke clocking 2:28.76 on a 6,190 tally in the 2014 NCAA Indoor while Texas A&M’s Daniel Martin posted a 2:27.30 on a 5,323 effort in the 2016 SEC Indoor.

“It’s my event and I believe in myself,” stated Owens, the UA record holder and collegiate leader with a 6,272 this season. “In all the running events it’s just me and my two legs. All I’m doing is running with my two legs and my heart. When I do that, I know I’m the best in the field.”

Owens had the fastest 60m hurdle time with a career best of 7.80, which moves him equal No. 7 on the UA all-time list and totaled 1,033 points in the event.

In the pole vault, both Owens cleared 15-11.25 (4.86) for 868 points.

“I went to bed last night, said my prayers, and said I would become a champion,” said Owens. “I focused event by event and didn’t worry about another other competitors…I wanted to fight for the Razorback on my chest, for the country on my back of Puerto Rico, and the Owens family.

“I became the NCAA champion and I’m the best in the NCAA.”

The 6,211 total by Owens also bettered the facility record of 6,173 set in 2016 by Wisconsin’s Zach Ziemek.

(Press release and photo courtesy of University of Arkansas Athletics).