North Allegheny’s Ayden Owens breaks Dion Bentley’s decades-old record at Baldwin Invitational

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Saturday, May 5, 2018 | 1:39 AM


Days like this are why Ayden Owens is a Southern Cal recruit.

The North Allegheny senior dazzled Friday at the Baldwin Invitation by sweeping the hurdles events and breaking a 29-year-old meet record set by former Penn Hills standout Dion Bentley, a respected name in WPIAL track history.

That elite athleticism makes Owens well-suited for the Pac-12. But the reason he chose USC in particular was to escape cold, rainy, windy days.

This was one of those days.

Charging into a strong headwind as thunderstorms approached Friday, Owens won the 110 hurdles in 14.04 seconds and later won the 300 hurdles in 37.33 seconds, which was both a personal best and a meet record. His fiercest challenges were wind gusts that approached 20 mph.

“About halfway through I got shoved out, the wind was blowing me,” Owens said of his 110 race. “I was almost falling over. … I’ve never run into a headwind like this. To be able to run the times that I ran today, it really bodes well for the future.”

He also placed third in the long jump at 22-3.

There were five athletes who won two individual events Friday during a meet that was interupted for nearly an hour by thunderstorms. Along with Owens, South Fayette’s Rachel Helbling (200, 400), North Allegheny’s Casey Burton (long jump, 100), Oakland Catholic’s Jayla Ellis (high jump, 100 hurdles) and Penn Hills’ Alex Trower (100, 200) each claimed two events.

Upper St. Clair’s Savannah Shaw and Winchester Thurston’s Tristan Forsythe won the McKinney Mile races, a marquee event for the meet.

Owens, the defending PIAA Class AAA champion in both hurdles, could be remembered among the all-time WPIAL greats, much like Bentley. He already owns the state championship record in the 110 hurdles and wants to claim the 300 mark this season.

Bentley, who was named the national boys athlete of the year as a senior by Track and Field News, posted a 37.8-second time in 1989 at the Baldwin Invitational. Connellsville’s Justin Rose matched Bentley’s 300-hurdles record in 1996, a meet mark Owens bettered by nearly a half-second.

Owens ran 37.44 at the Lady Spartan/Wildcat Invitational in Latrobe on April 13, but the weather overall has limited him somewhat this season.

“It’s been the worst it’s ever been since I’ve been here in Pittsburgh,” Owens said. “That makes me more excited to get out to USC. It’s been horrible.”

The weather Friday in Los Angeles was 84 and sunny.

“That really factored into my decision,” Owens said. “I knew that weather like this doesn’t put me in the best mood, first and foremost. But also it’s hard for training. There’s a reason athletes come out of warm climates most times. So I’m excited to get out there and work with that warm climate.”

But Friday’s weather surely didn’t surprise him.

“Every year at Baldwin, this is tradition,” Owens said laughing. “It rains every year here.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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