MTRK | Ayden Owens breaks Arkansas heptathlon record with No. 2 score in collegiate history

FAYETTEVILLE – Competing in his first heptathlon as a Razorback, Ayden Owens broke the Arkansas school record with a career best and world-leading score of 6,272 points that ranks him No. 2 on the all-time collegiate list.

The spectators inside Randal Tyson Track Center were treated to that spectacular achievement along with a myriad of high-caliber performances among the 12-team field assembled for this year’s Razorback Invitational.

“We had every Power 5 conference represented here,” said Arkansas men’s head coach Chris Bucknam. “I didn’t see any fear in any our guy’s eyes when we competed. We have a lot of young guys who are doing it for the first time for us as well. It was great competition, and we appreciate the teams making the time and effort to come to Fayetteville to make this a great meet.”

Owens’ heptathlon total bettered the Arkansas school record of 6,175 set by Kevin Lazas in 2013. Owens also improved his Puerto Rican national record from his previous best of 5,995 which he established in earning a bronze medal at the 2021 NCAA Indoor hosted by the Razorbacks.

“My plan was to go out and put together a great seven events,” said Owens. “I wasn’t too worried about the score, since I knew it was going to be big if I executed the events properly. It was a great heptathlon.

“From the work we put in all fall I knew a score over 6,000 was coming. Honestly, for the last 13 years of my life I’ve been training for this moment and others in the future. I have the training, the strength and the emotional support from my family and my coaches to come here and set a more than 300-point PR.”

In moving to No. 2 on the all-time collegiate list, Owens only trails the 6,499 collegiate record set by Oregon’s Ashton Eaton in the 2010 NCAA Indoor. He bettered the Razorback Invitational meet record of 6,114 set in 2020 by Georgia’s Johannes Erm.

“What a competition that was and we’re really proud of Ayden,” stated Bucknam. “All of our decathletes did a good job this weekend. That’s a great group of athletes that work really well together and are great teammates to each other. It takes that kind of effort in that event group.”

Among all multi-eventers in North and Central America, Owens ranks as the No. 8 performer with the No. 13 performance. In reaching a lofty status among professionals and collegians, Owens passed some significant names to reach a top 10 position.

The group Owens moves ahead of includes Arkansas alum Gunnar Nixon (6,232), Steve Fritz (6,213), Garrett Scantling (6,209), Trey Hardee (6,208), Kyle Garland (6,200), Curtis Beach (6,190), Devon Williams (6,177) and Lazas (6,175). Owen’s score also ranks 24th on the all-time world list.

Trailing his long-time rival Kyle Garland of Georgia by 152 points after the first day of the heptathlon, the lead grew by five points after the 60m hurdles to start day two of the multi-event. Garland clocked a career best 7.86 in the hurdles with Owens challenging with a 7.88.

Momentum turned, however, in the pole vault when Garland managed to only clear 14-3.25 (4.35) for 716 points. Owens answered with his third indoor PR of the season in the event with a 15-11 (4.85) clearance to net 865 points.

“It’s a seven-event gig and I wasn’t worried when he was out of the pole vault,” noted Owens, who shares the same birthdate (May 28, 2000) with Garland, and both went to high school in Pennsylvania. “It’s me versus me and having fun with my teammates as we push each other. I did my best in the pole vault with a PR, put a lot of points on the board and stayed the course.

“It’s a blessing to be able compete with somebody who is so strong and ambitious. I’m blessed to be able to reach new heights along side my teammates and other competitors.”

Garland’s lead went down to just eight points – 5,361 to 5,353 – with only the 1,000m race remaining in the seven-event competition.

Owens clocked a PR of 2:35.93 as runner-up in the 1,000m to collect 919 points while Garland ran 2:46.57 to place eighth for 802 points. Owens bettered Garland by 102 points with the Bulldog finishing runner-up with a total of 6,163.

Razorbacks Daniel Spejcher (5,588) and Etamar Bhastekar (5,554) finished fourth and fifth in the event.

The Razorbacks also produced four runner-up performances on the day. They included Tre-Bien Gilbert in the 60m hurdles, Kieran Taylor at 800m, James Benson II in the 400m, and Elias Schreml as the top collegian in the mile.

“We had an outstanding day and saw a lot of great performances,” noted Bucknam. “This is a really good team and we’re going to stay humble. There are lot of great teams out there too, and we just need to keep working hard. I’m happy for a lot of different reasons for things that we got done this weekend.”

Schreml, who has an indoor 1,500m best of 3:43.21, contested his first indoor mile and promptly ran a sub-4-minute time of 3:57.85, moving to No. 10 on the UA all-time list in the process. Great Britain’s Charlie Grice won the race in 3:57.39.

The race included six sub-4-minute miles, including a 3:59.38 career best by Razorback Andrew Kibet in fifth place while teammate Tommy Romanow set a PR of 4:07.40.

Tyson Center now has a total of 157 sub-4 miles. Last season there were a total of 34 in the facility over the course of the indoor season.

Gilbert ran 7.79 in the 60m hurdles to finish behind a 7.68 for LSU’s Eric Edwards while Arkansas teammates Phillip Lemonious placed third in 7.81 and Brevin Sims set a PR of 7.85 in fifth place, moving to No. 10 on the UA all-time list.

A career best of 46.21 earned Benson a runner-up position in the 400m behind a 45.78 from Iowa’s Jenoah McKiver. Brandon Battle finished fourth in the last section and placed sixth overall with a 47.01 with Arkansas alum Marqueze Washington fifth with a 46.86.

In his first 800m foray this indoor season, Taylor clocked 1:48.93 in second place as he was edged out by a 1:48.90 from Stanford’s John Lester. A trio of Razorback PRs were set by Jadon Bartholomew (1:50.98), Leroy Russell (1:51.07), and Ricardo Banks (1:52.24).

Amon Kemboi led an Arkansas crew at 3,000m, posting a time of 7:51.53 to finish seventh. A combination of debuts and career best times in the event included the following Razorbacks – Ben Shearer (7:55.37 debut), Myles Richter (7:56.24 PR), Patrick Kiprop (7:56.97 debut), Emmanuel Cheboson (8:02.15 PR), and Andrew Kibet (8:05.97 debut).

Josh Shearer won another section of the 3,000m in a career best of 8:05.57 over Oregon’s duo of Caleb Brown (8:06.07) and Cameron Stein (8:06.77). Shearer’s previous best was 8:19.50.

Arkansas capped the meet with a fourth-place effort in the 4×400 relay, posting a time of 3:07.07 with a foursome of Connor Washington (47.85), Battle (45.76), Benson (46.23) and Phillip Anderson (47.23). Georgia won the race in 3:04.07 to edge out USC (3:04.86) with Iowa in third at 3:05.68.

John Baker reached a distance of 50-4.5 (15.35) for fifth in the triple jump.

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