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North Allegheny's Owens, Savchik shine on national stage

| Friday, June 23, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
North Allegheny's Ayden Owens wins the Boy's Class AAA 300 meter hurdles at the WPIAL track and field individual championships at Baldwin High School on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
North Allegheny's Ayden Owens wins the Boy's Class AAA 300 meter hurdles at the WPIAL track and field individual championships at Baldwin High School on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
North Allegheny's Clara Savchik crosses the finish line to win the Class AAA girls race during the WPIAL cross country championships Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, at Cooper's Lake Campground. Savchik won with a time of 18:00 minutes.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
North Allegheny's Clara Savchik crosses the finish line to win the Class AAA girls race during the WPIAL cross country championships Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, at Cooper's Lake Campground. Savchik won with a time of 18:00 minutes.

Ayden Owens and Clara Savchik both dazzled at the PIAA Class AAA track and field championships in late May. Setting meet records allowed the incoming seniors to capture state titles.

Then they were challenged to maintain their progress for national events three weeks later.

Neither showed any signs of rust.

Owens set a meet record in the boys decathlon at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor in Greensboro, N.C., by scoring 7,009 points to win the event.

Savchik placed eighth in the 3,200-meter run among a tough national field at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle. She finished the race in a time of 10 minutes, 19.85 seconds, which was nearly two seconds faster than her PIAA time.

“The race at nationals was harder,” said Savchick, who ran a 10:21.65 at states. “It was hard to finish that far back with such a fast time.”

A similar past experience had Owens desperate to break 7,000 points. Last year, Owens' experience at the New Balance meet was one of his worst performances of the year.

“I used that to come back and give me the extra edge,” Owens said. “I've been here before, and I have something to prove.”

There was little stumbling on Owens' second chance.

Owens took first in the 100 dash (10.88), 110 hurdles (13.94) and 400 run (49.06) en route to beating the rest of the field by 530 points.

It was part of a good stretch for Owens, who also competed at the Junior Nationals in Sacramento, Calif., last weekend. At the PIAA meet, Owens broke a 25-year old school record by finishing the 110 hurdles in 13.76 seconds.

“Coming off of states, I had a lot of momentum,” Owens said. “I had a nice PR in the 110. I altered my training to be more toward the decathlon rather than hurdles. I had to hit pole vault and the throws and all that stuff. It was a busy two weeks. I had it all worked out when I went to Greensboro and set the meet record and won.”

Savchik finished short of her personal best. What burned her was finishing behind Katelyn Hart (10:19.29) and Emily Venters (10:19.31), who passed Savchik at the end of the race.

Brie Oakley, of Grandview (Colo.) High School, won the race with a time of 9:51.35.

“I want to work on my finishing kick a little more,” Savchik said. “Those girls passed me right at the end. I want to work on keeping the pace longer.”

Tigers track coach John Neff admired both athletes for doing two such demanding meets so close together.

“That's not easy,” Neff said. “You are peaked and ready (going into states), both mentally and emotionally. You run well and think, OK I've done it. Then you have to get yourself back up in a couple weeks, that's really difficult. A lot of people can't step up and do it, but these guys stepped up and took care of business.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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