Eddie Owens from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn runs the fourth fastest time ever recorded by a high school student in the 3,000-meter steeplechase event.
Eddie Owens surged.
The Packer Collegiate senior rushed the final straightaway of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, tucked over a barrier and, for the first time in the race, grimaced. Stepping over the line, the lithe, auburn-haired racer raised his hand to acknowledge his parents, a 34-year-old meet record broken.
I stuttered on a whole bunch of those hurdles, Owens said to Packer coach Jeremy Busch, slipping into a frank critique of his performance at last weekend's Loucks Games in White Plains, N.Y.
I need to vent to coaches and family after a race, Owens said later. I need to analyze a race and try and understand.
The Brooklyn Heights product made his reputation on the dirt of the cross country course, not on the track. In November, his withering pace forged an audacious victory at the state Federation Cross Country Championships.
Last December's Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in San Diego signaled another breakthrough: an eighth-place finish in what is effectively the sport's national championship.
Eddie will run that same pace during a race and sort of dare you to do it with him, said Pete Prince, the coach at Packer Collegiate rival Brooklyn Friends. (Only) some of the best runners in the country have been able to do it.
On the track, Owens has found a home in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the closest approximation of a cross country race that is run on an oval.
The event's defining traits - a water jump preceded by a 3-foot-high barrier and other, dry barriers that must be leapt 28times during the race - make it as grueling an event as any in the sport. Its seven laps are not run in-lane, as are the other hurdling events.
It takes a unique individual to accept it, said Don Buckley, who introduced the steeplechase to New York City while at Most Holy Trinity HS in Brooklyn in 1970, and later coached future Olympian John Gregorek at St. Anthony's HS on Long Island. A lot of kids are afraid of it. I believe it is physically and mentally challenging.
Tom Nohilly, a Msgr. McClancy alumnus who was the steeplechase alternate on the 1992 and 1996 U.S. Olympic teams, said the event presents an element of danger.
Those (barriers) don't move, Nohilly added. If you hit that, you're going down.
Owens, a former soccer player, tried the race as a sophomore and found that he had the athleticism for the event.
I've always found a 3,200-meter (run) can be kind of tedious and boring, Owens said. When I'm in the steeple by myself, it can be plenty exciting because I can challenge myself with every barrier. That's what I really enjoy about it.