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Titles for Owens, Savchik highlight impressive PIAA performance for North Allegheny

| Friday, June 2, 2017, 11:00 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.
North Allegheny's Clara Savchik wins the gold medal in the Girl's Class AAA 3200 meter run 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 Clara Savchik wins the gold medal in the Girl's Class AAA 3200 meter run at the PIAA track and field individual championships at Shippensburg University on Saturday, May 27, 2017.
North Allegheny's Clara Savchik wins the gold medal in the Girl's Class AAA 3200 meter run 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 Clara Savchik wins the gold medal in the Girl's Class AAA 3200 meter run at the PIAA track and field individual championships at Shippensburg University on Saturday, May 27, 2017.
North Allegheny’s Ayden Owens celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Boy's Class AAA 300 meter 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 winning the gold medal in the Boy's Class AAA 300 meter hurdles at the PIAA track and field individual championships at Shippensburg University on Saturday, May 27, 2017.
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.
North Allegheny’s Ayden Owens clears the last hurdle to set a state record and win 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 clears the last hurdle to set a state record and win 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.

In the days prior to the PIAA track and field meet, North Allegheny coach John Neff expressed confidence that all Tigers' entrants could finish in the top eight in their respective events. That didn't happen, but what did occur collectively was impressive in its own way.

Of the 10 events in which NA had a participant, six made the podium.

“You're given a set of gifts, and you have to use those gifts in the situation that you're in. Every opportunity is an opportunity that you may never get again. And so you really have to try to seize the moment,” Neff said. “It's not hard to teach it. The kids really buy into it.”

Junior Ayden Owens earned a pair of state titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, breaking school records in both and setting a state record in the 110 (13.76). His success in the 300 meters (37.47) meant a repeat as state champion. He also finished seventh in the long jump (21 feet, 8.5 inches).

Classmate Clara Savchik earned gold in the 3,200-meter race with a time of 10 minutes, 21.65 seconds, a school record. She missed setting the state record by less than a second, instead securing second all-time. She earned second place in the same event as a sophomore, running 10:41.18.

Freshman sprinter Casey Burton helped the girls 400 relay to a sixth-place finish as its second leg, also earning fifth place in the 100 (12.19) seconds. She was the only underclassman to medal in that race.

Her time in the 100 meters broke a school record. The previous mark had existed as one of the longest ongoing track and field records at the school, according to Neff, dating back to the early 1980s.

North Allegheny's neighbor, North Hills, sent a sole athlete to the state meet this year, junior Amberly Valeriano.

Valeriano competed in the same two events at PIAA meet this season that she had as a sophomore — the 100 hurdles and long jump — wanting to medal in both.

Valeriano finished 17th with a distance of 16-10.

She made clear strides in the hurdles. Ranked 12th in that field at the start of the meet, Valeriano secured a seventh-place medal after running a 14.91 in the finals. She had set a new personal record of 14.71 in the semifinals.

“When it comes to higher level meets, your adrenaline's always pumping, whether it's just your nerves or through excitement,” Valeriano said. “That's why I feel I was able to achieve that PR. Because I was just running on pure adrenaline. I was like ‘these girls are crazy good.' I'm just going to run my hardest.”

Jasper Wilson is a freelance writer.

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