NEW ORLEANS – Scoring 6,272 points in the heptathlon, producing the second–best score in collegiate history, earned Arkansas sophomore Ayden Owens the National Athlete of the Week honor as announced by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
A school and meet record performance in the Razorback Invitational this past weekend enabled Owens to defeat a long-time rival while contesting his first heptathlon as a Razorback.
As a result, Owens becomes the first member of the Arkansas men’s team to collect the national honor for indoor or outdoor track and field. In cross country, Stanley Kebenei received the honor in 2013.
Owens broke the school record of 6,175 set by Kevin Lazas in 2017 as well as the meet record of 6,114 set in 2020 by Johannes Erm of Georgia. The Randal Tyson Track Center facility record of 6,499 is also the collegiate record established by Oregon’s Ashton Eaton in the 2010 NCAA Championships.
In addition, Owens improved the Puerto Rico national record from his previous best score of 5,995 points, which earned him a bronze medal during the 2021 NCAA Championships hosted by Arkansas.
“Ayden did a fantastic job,” said Arkansas associate head coach Travis Geopfert. “We came into this meet talking about execution, keeping a level head, and executing one event at a time. I’m just really proud of the effort across the board.
“Any combined event is a roller coaster, and he kept a level head and continued to execute. Obviously, he put a good score together.”
Within the seven events of the heptathlon, Owens broke the Razorback Invitational meet record for 60m with a 6.82. He added career best marks in the long jump and high jump on the first day, then produced career best marks in the pole vault and 1,000m on day two.
“Ayden’s just a tremendous competitor,” stated Geopfert. “I told him he would need to run 2:36 or faster in the 1,000m to be No. 2 in NCAA history. He went and ran 2:35. All the way through to the end, including the 1,000m, just a tremendous competitive effort.”
Those event-by-event efforts enabled Owens to overcome a deficit of 152 points to first day leader Kyle Garland of Georgia and win the competition by 109 points.
“Kyle is a great athlete and a tremendous competitor,” noted Geopfert. “To see those two duke it out, day one they both high jumped extremely well and then started day two with a duel in the hurdles. They’re going to continue to compete against each other for a long time.”