The decathlon is one of the toughest events in any sport. Think of it, Jim Thorpe, Bob Mathias, Rafer Johnson, Milt Campbell, Bill Toomey, Bruce Jenner, Dan O’Brien, Ashton Eaton, a group of Olympic gold medalists and decathlon icons.
The decathlon is a two day affair of ten events, which, as Ashton Eaton’s coach, Harry Marra would tell you, consists of ten events that you have to avoid screwing up.
Elias Esquival covered both days 1, and days 2 of the decathlon. (Here’s his day one piece: https://www.runblogrun.com/2022/06/2022-ncaa-outdoor-track-field-championships-d-1-mens-decathlon-day-one-by-elias-esquivel-sojc-track-.html
Elias describes the events as if you are sitting on his shoulder, listening to him talk to the athletes, still out of breath, but happy with their performances.
Ayden Owens-Delerme, 1rst, Daniel Spejcher, 7th, Decathlon, 2022 NCAA Outdoors, photo by Kevin Neri
By Elias Esquivel
SOJC Track Bureau
Other names may have been involved, but Arkansas’ Ayden Owens-Delerme’s rose above them all. Owens-Delerme, who entered with the lead on day two, pulled off five personal bests across the 10 disciplines en route to an NCAA decathlon title Thursday night at Hayward Field. He totaled 8,457 points, a meet record.
“I’m in the company of some of the greatest people who have come through the sport,” said Owens-Delerme, who won the indoor heptathlon title in March. “I’m honored to consider myself one of the best collegiate athletes of all time.”
Texas’ Leo Neugebauer took silver, scoring 8,362 points, a new personal best, and Georgia’s Kyle Garland received bronze, scoring 8,333 points.
Owens-Delerme’s personal bests were produced in the 400 meters, 46.10 seconds, an NCAA decathlon record; the high jump, clearing 6 feet, 7 inches; the shot put, tossing 49-6¼; the javelin, with a heave of 183-11; and the discus, throwing 151-9.
By the time the last event, the 1,500 meters, arrived it was out of mere formality, as Owens-Delerme had a comfortable lead. Although Owens-Delerme won gold in the heptathlon at NCAA indoors, it didn’t come in such a dominant fashion. There, he relied on a herculean effort in the 1,000 meters, the last event, to steal the title from Garland.
This time around, the title was his to lose.
“I don’t know, it’s different,” said Owens-Delerme. “Stress-wise, it’s a lot easier, but in order to run fast, honestly, I think it hurts worse. I’d rather go as hard as I can.”
Garland, who qualified for the World Athletics Championships in a collegiate record-setting performance of 8,720 points, was predicted to challenge Owens-Delerme. Garland was only 11 points shy of winning his first-ever NCAA championship indoors and triumphed over Owens-Delerme at last year’s championships, taking home silver.
But after underwhelming performances in the javelin and discus, events Garland routinely does well in, an NCAA title, which would’ve been his first, was out of the picture. He said that after his discus woes, he focused on having fun and scoring at least 8,300 points.
“You know, I mean, it was what it was,” said Garland. “My mind is already clear, having made the world championship team…I didn’t even care about the competition after that much.”
Now with a full focus on July’s championships, Garland looks to build off his performance in the 1,500 meters, where he ran a personal best of 4:41.96.
“It’s just really exciting to take that back to training,” said Garland. “The biggest thing for me was not giving up. I didn’t have my best decathlon competition, but I just didn’t give up.”
Owens-Delerme said he’d enjoy the win for the night, but planned to get back to training soon after recovery. He said he’s blessed to soon compete against the “big boys” in July. He will be competing for Puerto Rico, where he’s the national record holder. He expressed it meant a lot to him to represent Puerto Rico, the birthplace of his maternal grandparents.
“I’m just honored to represent my people and put my country on the map,” he said.
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