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Packer’s Owens craves chance to represent USA in the steeplechase

Eddie Owens has accomplished plenty of significant marks this year and throughout his career. But this weekend the Packer Collegiate star can claim a special and elusive honor.

He will run the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the USATF Junior Nationals Saturday at historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. Placing in the top two will earn him the chance to represent the U.S. for the first time in the Junior Pan-American Games in July.

“I really want that USA singlet,” Owens said. “I’ve been craving that for a real long time. I think it’s the coolest thing. I just want it sooner rather than later.”

He missed a chance during cross country season. Owens placed 16th, one spot away from qualifying to run in the NACAC Championship, at the USA Cross Country Championship in February. It was a performance he said was less than his best.

Owens is much more hopeful this time as he is coming off winning the 2,000 meter steeplechase in a time of 5:49.40 at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., last Saturday. It is the fifth fastest time ever in high school history and the top time in the country this season.

“I felt if the race played out right I was pretty darn sure that I could go at least under 5:50,” Owens said. ... “This was my first race in a little while that comfortably met my expectations.”

He will be in a comfortable setting this weekend as he gets the chance to run for the first time at Oregon. Packer coach Jeremy Busch grew up in Portland and has run on the track.

“We are actually at his parents’ house right now,” said Owens, who landed in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday.

Busch has told him how fast the track is. When the two planned his outdoor schedule in the winter he talked about Owens hopefully getting a chance to run there at some point in his career, not knowing that it could come this season.

“It’s track town USA; for me it’s about being home to have a chance to have Eddie race and coach him through that,” Busch said. “It should be a great experience for him to run in Eugene with that running crowd that knows the sport. I couldn’t write a better ending.”

The road to this meet hasn’t been smooth sailing until last weekend for Owens. Through the middle of the season, he wasn’t hitting the times he wanted or showing the improvement he had hoped for. He and Busch decided it would be best for him to take four days off in the middle of May to rest his legs. A school trip to Baltimore in early June also set his training back.

“It wasn’t that he had bad races or poor races, it was that he wasn’t [running] national caliber races,” Busch said. “We weren’t getting faster in those races.”

Owens called dropping out of the 5,000 meters at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., last Saturday as a low point, but he followed that up with one of his highlights of his career in the 2000 steeplechase.

The 2,000 is much more to his liking and style because he has more energy left to push across the final two laps. Still he believes his performance is a good sign heading into this weekend, where times don’t matter.

“I really, really want to be top two,” Owens said. “That’s the only goal. It’s top two or nothing.”

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