While it came late in the season, South Carolina native Dolan Owens put his stamp on the state when it mattered most
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When Dolan Owens' plan to set a new South Carolina state record in mile at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor turned up short a few weeks ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, he did the next best thing.
He won the race.
But the Charleston James Island (SC) High School graduate and University of North Carolina signee wasn't satisfied, so he knew had to give one more race a go. The state record of 4:06.4 still wasn't his.
Knowing it was his last shot to go after the mark, he knew the stakes were high at the Sir Walter Miler Pop Up Mile in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 28.
Pre-race conversations with competitors weren't typical, but Owens, who ran unattached across his spring track and field season, felt like he had to have a conversation with Clemson University graduate James Quattlebaum.
"All I said to him was 'Just please make this an honest race,'" Owens said.
The pair agreed that Quattlebaum would take out the first 400, while Owens, who had run 4:10.52 at NBNO, would grab the next lap. From there, it was up to either of them to go after the win.
"I just really wanted to prove myself in South Carolina as almost a legend," Owens said. "I wanted to leave a legacy."
The race went to plan, with both settling into good position. They were on pace early on.
After 800 meters, Owens took control of the pivotal third lap, then made his move, leading until the final 250. Quattlebaum eventually won the race, but Owens achieved his mission, running 4:03.50.
The effort wasn't only a South Carolina record but a new US No. 2 time. And it was satisfaction for Owens, who was motivated by the state's best runners. Hilton Head High School graduate Sam Gilman had quietly put together one of South Carolina's best mid-distance seasons to date, then set the state mile record on June 1 at the Music City Distance Carnival.
Owens responded at the end of the month.
"I just wanted to end on a high note," Owens said. "I felt I was capable of running under 4:05."
It proved the culmination of a measured senior season from Owens, who chose to control his own schedule in the spring after racing too much at a younger age. The future Tar Heel revealed he has a permanently fractured back in the L4-L5 vertebrae, which was an extension of overtraining when he was in middle school.
He didn't blame coaches at his high school for his decision.
Previously, Owens had experienced a few injuries throughout his high school career that ultimately kept him out of action. A broken ankle erased his junior track season.
But he responded in the fall with his first state title in cross country, winning the Class 5A boys race. Running unattached, he followed in the spring with a few 1500s, including a 3:51 at the Raleigh Relays.
He ran 1:50.56 in the 800m at the Wingfoot Mile in May, which equates to a US No. 6 time.
By time nationals came around, Owens was hungry. He used a perceived slight of not being invited to Brooks PR as motivation for his final high school race.
"Maybe it was a blessing in disguise," Owens said. "A part of me wanted that US No. 1 (mile time), but I'm definitely satisfied with how it ended."