Ayden Owens-Delerme setting NCAA record for event 5, in the decathlon, 400 meters, June 8, 2022, photo by Cierra Hitner
By Elias Esquivel
SOJC Track Bureau
As the decathletes ran in the final heat of the 400 meters Wednesday evening at the NCAA Championships, the decathletes from the second heat were making their way through the media tent, having just completed. The final heat was streamed on a TV near the entrance, and a small group of decathletes, which included the collegiate record holder, Kyle Garland, surrounded the TV, chatting urgently amongst themselves.
"What do you think he's gonna hit?" asked Texas' Leo Neugebauer.
"Forty-six, forty-seven," replied Garland, a sophomore from Georgia.
It was Arkansas' Ayden Owens-Delerme that demanded their attention. Owens-Delerme, the NCAA silver medalist in 2021, ran a personal best of 46.10 seconds, winning by.67.
"I'm the strongest man in the NCAA and 400," said Owens-Delerme. "I knew that, so when I go into it, I'm fully confident."
Owens-Delerme's performance secured him the top spot in the decathlon standings after the first day of competition, scoring 4,490 points. Garland is in second with 4,441 points, and Neugebauer sits in third with 4,435 points.
Garland and Owens-Delerme entered as overwhelming favorites. After all, it's only been a few months since the duo, who share a birthday, dominated the NCAA Indoor Championships. Owens-Delerme won the heptathlon, besting Garland, the silver medalist, by 11 points.
In outdoors, Owens-Delerme ranks second in the country, totaling 8,528 points in April at the Mt. SAC Relays. The performance broke the collegiate record, previously held by Georgia's Karel Tilga--it was short-lived, as Garland set the new collegiate record of 8,720 points at the USATF Combined Events Championships a few weeks later.
Owens-Delerme comfortably won the 100 meters, posting a time of 10.41 seconds, besting Garland, who finished in second, by .22.
Garland recovered points in the long jump, finishing second with a leap of 24 feet, 7 ¾ inches. Neugebauer won, jumping 24-11¾, and Owens-Delerme finished third.
Shot put was next, and it was another win for Neugebauer, throwing a personal-best of 52-6. Oregon's Max Vollmer, the Pac-12 champion, finished second, followed by Garland and Owens-Delerme rounding out the top five, throwing 50-4½ and 49-6¼, respectively.
In the high jump, Garland finished second, clearing 6-9½. Owens-Delerme finished seventh, setting a new personal best at 6-7. He admitted he struggled early in his attempts.
"I'm just feeling a little tightness in my left leg -- my jump leg," said Owens-Delerme. "That was kind of limiting my range early on."
Although Owens-Delerme will enjoy the lead entering day two, Garland knows it's not time to panic. There are still five events that need to be completed: 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the 1,500-meter. The throws may benefit the stronger Garland.
"We had some ups and downs across the board," said Garland. "I just had to keep myself focused and know it's a 10-event competition and not a one-event competition... everybody's going to be fighting to win that national championship -- you just gotta tell yourself you're going against the number and not other guys."