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North Allegheny's Owens commits to USC

| Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, 1:24 p.m.
North Allegheny’s Ayden Owens celebrates after setting a state record and winning the gold medal in the Boy's Class AAA 110 hurdles at the PIAA track and field individual championships at Shippensburg University on Saturday, May 27, 2017.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
North Allegheny’s Ayden Owens celebrates after setting a state record and winning the gold medal in the Boy's Class AAA 110 hurdles at the PIAA track and field individual championships at Shippensburg University on Saturday, May 27, 2017.

Seeing the Southern California track team at work left North Allegheny senior Ayden Owens feeling excited.

In high school, Owens often feels like Superman. Fitting in with the Trojans will require hard work to earn a spot in the Justice League.

“That's the most exciting thing,” said Owens, who announced his commitment to USC last week. “I've never been on a track team where everyone is at my level or a higher level. I think that's going to bring out the best in me. Competing with kids who are NCAA champions or going to the Olympic trials, I can only get better in that kind of environment. That's one of the reasons I chose it. Surrounding myself with these high-caliber athletes is going to make me step up.”

Not that high school has been boring for him.

Owens specializes in the decathlon. Over the summer, he set a meet record and won the event at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., with a score of 7,009.

That was after turning in a master performance at the PIAA Class AAA championships last spring at Shippensburg. In all three events Owens competed in, he came away with a medal.

Owens finished first in the 110 hurdles in 13.76 seconds, which broke a 25-year-old North Allegheny record. He also won the 300 hurdles in 37.47 seconds, breaking a personal record by 0.01 seconds. Owens also placed seventh in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 8.5 inches.

It was another step for an athlete who had long since demonstrated his overwhelming potential.

“Ayden came to us in ninth grade and was already a tremendous talent,” Tigers coach John Neff said. “He had so much experience behind him. He wasn't your typical (athlete) coming in. He wasn't a typical kid all the way through. His work ethic has been unbelievable; his dedication has been out of sight. From top to bottom, every aspect Ayden brings to the table is exemplary.”

Attention to detail is a must with decathletes, which requires competing in 10 events. Finding a way to be disciplined in 10 events — 100-, 400- and 1,500-meter runs; long and high jumps; discus, shot put and javelin throws; 110 hurdles and the pole vault — requires calculation.

Owens has to figure out where he is strong — the 110 hurdles is his best — and where he's weak — the javelin — before coming up with a practice plan.

“It's really me trying to get better all-around,” Owens said. “It is harder to focus on a specific thing. You can't get too drilled in that area. You have to be able to improve with every event. You can't just say, I'm a good hurdler and hurdle all practice. There are events I dedicate more time to if I can see major improvement.”

Making gradual progress will be a must in a highly competitive group.

Being able to work toward that in nice weather will help make things go a little easier.

“It's nice and warm out there,” Owens said. “It's comfortable to train.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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