WALNUT, CALIFORNIA, April 13-14 — “I just came here to execute,” said Ayden Owens after keying the first two days of the Mt. SAC Relays with a Collegiate Record decathlon score of 8528. “I listened to [associate head coach Travis Geopfert], and I put up a good 10 events and focused on the process. The result was great, 8500 points. I feel blessed to be in this situation.”
The Arkansas senior, who represents Puerto Rico internationally, continued, “It’s a big score, but there is a lot more to come. It you look at my decathlon here, there are some good performances, some mediocre performances and some bad performances. That’s how a decathlon goes. Once we clean that up going throughout the season and tune things up, it’s going to be pretty crazy come June and July.”
Owens’ mark eclipsed the CR total of 8484 set by Georgia’s Karel Tilga last year and fell just shy of the wind-aided 8539 put up by Texas A&M’s Lindon Victor in ’17.
Owens opened with a PR 10.27, long jumped 24-7¾ (7.51), put the shot an outdoor PR 48-10¼ (14.89) and high jumped a disappointing 6-3½ (1.92) before finishing Day 1 with a blistering 46.21. That surpassed an Ashton Eaton 46.28 as the fastest collegiate multi time ever.
“Tomorrow, we come back and battle,” said the leader. “We come back to have a good time and compete, and just give it our best effort. That’s all I can do. We’ll see what score I put up.”
He put up a big one, starting with a near-PR 13.80 for the fastest flight of hurdles. “We came in here to run a fast hurdle race,” he said. “I’m focusing on one event. When I get here in the morning and I’m coming to do the sixth event, the 110 hurdles, that’s all I’m doing for the day. That’s my mentality. So, let’s try to PR. Then I move on mentally to the next event. But it’s one step at a time, that’s how we approach it.”
His next step was an unremarkable one as he launched the discus only 141-1 (43.00). But then came another high as he equaled his outdoor vault best at 15-5 (4.70).
A solid 175-6 (53.50) toss in the javelin brought him through 9 events at 7669. Sporting a 4:23.57 career best in the 1500 from last season, Owens needed a 4:19.42 to break the CR. His 4:13.17 lowered his PR by more than 10 seconds as he attempted to run 4:11 in order to better Victor’s all-conditions best, but came up 12 points shy.
“I feel honored to be in that company,” noted Owens. “I competed against Lindon my freshman year at the Bryan Clay meet. He said, ‘You’re going to be the guy to take my record.’ He said that 3 years ago.
“Tonight, I wanted it, but it’s going to leave me something on the table to be motivated to go after. Some ways I’m happy it ended this way because I’m hungry.”
Owens got good mental support from teammates Daniel Spejcher (4th with a PR 7881) and Noah Swaby (10th at a 7317). “It’s honestly everything,” he explained. “Because we goof around. It’s like we are at training, I’m serious. We keep it light, and we motivate each other. We train hard every day with blood, sweat, and tears. We come out here and have a good time. We’re just blessed to be in the this kind of situation, training and competing at this level is amazing.”
Coach Geopfert, himself a 7732 scorer back in the day, said, “I’m super proud of him, the way he’s handling the decathlon, in terms of managing each event has just been phenomenal. With swirling winds today, particularly in the pole vault, he did a fantastic job of managing all of that.
“He showed his guts again to go out there for a record in the 1500. The conversation beforehand, I told him what he needed to do to break 8500. He said, ‘I don’t want to hear that, tell me what I need to run.’ He’s a phenomenal athlete, a great person, and I’m super happy for him.”
Owens is a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native who competed for both USC and Michigan before moving on to Arkansas. “The decathlon is a man’s event,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations, as well as a lot of maturity that came with my last three years in college. This is my third school in four years. So, I finally land at a place where I felt like I could excel. Look at what I’m doing now.
“I’m excelling and hopefully I can improve myself to be one of the best athletes in NCAA history.”