The Wolverine

August 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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38 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2021 BY CHRIS BALAS A yden Owens would prob- ably have excelled in any sport he played — did, in fact, while growing up in Wexford, Pa., just outside of Pitts- burgh — but there was one thing in particular that drove him to track and field and the decathlon/heptathlon. "I was just super athletic when I was young, and I was wild," he recalled with a laugh. "I didn't get along with team sports really well; I played foot- ball and basketball, but I just didn't like depending on other people. "I'd rather depend on myself than have others affect my success; have it be all on me." That was his take as an 11-year-old who seemed to already know what he wanted … and, boy, was he right. The gifted athlete admitted it probably sounded selfish, but even then he had a plan, and he's followed through to become one of the best decathletes in the world. He has represented Michigan well after transferring from USC and dominating competition this spring, and his best is yet to come. Owens is The Wolverine's Male Ath- lete of the Year after he earned first- team All-America honors in the out- door decathlon and indoor heptathlon, placing second and third nationally, respectively. He was a Big Ten cham- pion (decathlon), is the school record holder in the both (8,238 points, de- cathlon; 5,995 points, heptathlon) and was named the Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year, just the second Wolverine to earn that honor for outdoor track. "I excelled in all sports and was so good at all different things growing up that I couldn't pick just one," he said. "I always wanted to say, 'I'm faster than you, can jump farther than you, this and that.' I loved that I could prove it in track and field, so I got good at all the events." To the point that he was on the verge of making the Olympic Games, where he would have represented Puerto Rico in Tokyo. Life isn't always fair, though, and many would say the qual- ifying system for the decathlon cer- tainly isn't. Owens entered the NCAA East Preliminaries this spring as the fifth-best decathlete in the world, com- ing off his historic 8,238-point score at the Big Ten Championships that smashed program and Big Ten records. In addition to scoring the fifth- highest total in the world for 2021, he was No. 2 among NCAA decathletes. For some reason, however, the selection criteria were altered a few years ago to add weight to what committee members deemed more important events. Though there's no difference in what the athletes were accomplishing, bonus points were awarded for meets that meant more in a selection group's eyes, and many of those events were held overseas. There were two ways to qualify — meet the Olympic standard of 8,450, which automatically gets you in (16 athletes did), or rack up enough points through the world ranking system to claim one of the other eight spots through the subjective system. MEN'S ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AYDEN OWENS MAN OF MANY TALENTS Multi-Event Track Star Ayden Owens Accomplished A Lot This Year, But The Best Is Yet To Come At the NCAA Championships this year, Owens placed second in the decathlon (outdoor) and third in the heptathlon (indoor). PHOTO BY JUSTIN TAFOYA/NCAA PHOTOS VIA GETTY IMAGES

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