North Allegheny’s Owens honored by state’s Track Athlete of the Year Award

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Thursday, July 5, 2018 | 11:00 PM


Ayden Owens became more determined than usual after suffering an early setback.

The North Allegheny graduate finished last out of all the qualifiers in the PIAA Class AAA 300 hurdles championship race as a freshman.

It was a setback that led Owens to add another item to his list of goals. Owens, who was named the Gatorade boys Track Athlete of the Year in Pennsylvania, never wanted to lose another race in that event.

He didn't. Last month, Owens capped his high school career by winning his third straight PIAA title in the 300 hurdles with a time of 36.68 seconds.

Owens also won the 110 hurdles crown by breaking his own record in the 110 hurdles (13.69).

For his career, Owens recorded five PIAA gold medals, including winning both hurdles' crowns in his junior and senior seasons.

“I think the fact I was able to bounce back after freshman year and win the 300 hurdles after finishing last (was special),” Owens said. “Winning every year was one of the best things I did throughout high school. That's what I worked for after freshman year. Go undefeated in the 300 hurdles.”

North Allegheny track coach John Neff would expect nothing less from Owens.

Chasing more goals is something Neff has noticed time and time again.

“He knows that he's been blessed with skills, but he also knows to not refine that would be wasting those skills,” said Neff after Owens set a record during the indoor season. “It's just who he is. He's not going to do something halfway or do something without putting himself into it. He'll never be satisfied.”

Being awarded the Gatorade Award was another big step. For the Southern California recruit, it gives him more motivation to live up to the honor.

Last year's winner, former Knoch standout Jordan Geist, earned All-American honors as a freshman at Arizona.

“Jordan Geist won it last year, and a lot of big names have won this award in the past,” Owens said. “I'm grateful my hard work has paid off over the years.”

The reward for Owens is being given an opportunity to challenge the Division I scene.

While Owens has competed at big national events before, he's ready to be immersed in a competitive environment.

“I'll be training with great athletes, and everyone on the team is on another level,” Owens said. “Going from Pittsburgh to training with some of the best guys in LA is a big step up.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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