Earning a trip to the NCAA preliminaries in track and field is never easy.

Even the most healthy and talented of athletes face a difficult road to the postseason events.

For Colorado's Brian Owens, getting to preliminaries required a lot of hard work, a healthy dose of determination and a high tolerance for pain.

"It's been quite a trip, to say the least," the Buffaloes' senior said.

On Saturday, Owens will compete in the javelin at the NCAA West Prelims in Austin, Texas. A right-handed thrower, he will compete -- as he has all season -- with a shredded right elbow.

"In order to throw with it at all, you just have to put up with the pain and, other than that, just hope for the best," he said.

This is nothing new to Owens. He hasn't been healthy since he stepped foot on the CU campus in the fall of 2008.

A three-sport (track and field, baseball and football) standout at Woodstown High School in Elmer, N.J., Owens came to CU to throw the javelin. Shortly after arriving, he discovered that constant wear and tear has destroyed his elbow.

He thought about getting surgery, but instead opted to leave school and go home in the spring of 2009 to deal with some family issues. That was nearly the end of his college career, but he decided to come back to Boulder.

The memory of his younger brother, who passed away in 2005 after a 4-wheeling accident, contributed to him coming back.


Advertisement

"It was definitely a huge motivation for me," Owens said.

Upon his return, he had major surgery on his elbow and sat out the 2010 season.

He continued to have problems with the elbow, however and competed in 2011 despite the injury. He threw a personal-best 221 feet in one meet and later that year placed sixth at the Big 12 Championships. He also earned a spot at the NCAA preliminaries.

Following that season, Owens opted for surgery again. That began the year-long rehabilitation process, which wiped out his 2012 season. He was looking forward to coming back healthy this year, but learned before the season that his elbow was still in bad shape.

"The surgery just basically didn't work," he said.

Owens made the decision to compete anyway, since this is his last year as a Buffalo.

"It was for the team and to say I got to compete in my last season in college," he said. "My goal was to put up some big numbers and hopefully score for the team and do well for the team."

Owens said he tore the ligaments that stabilize the elbow laterally, so "it almost allows my elbow to fold backward a little bit."

"It's one big mess in that one little joint," he said. "I figured the damage is done; I might as well try to get as good of a season out of it as I can."

So far, it has been a good season for Owens. He won the CU Invite on April 12 and earlier this month he finished 10th at the Pac-12 Championships with a season-best throw of 205 feet.

He's probably a long shot to finish in the top 12 at prelims and make it to nationals, but Owens isn't giving up on that dream.

"It's the only mindset I would have going into it," said Owens, who graduated this month with a degree in environmental studies. "I'm going in there to do some big things and hopefully advance on (to nationals).

"If I threw my personal best, I'd be up there and just have a very good shot of going on to nationals and advancing. I still want to be progressing along to the nationals, I still want to be an All-American. When it's done, maybe I can say I did that with a shredded elbow."

Regardless of how this weekend turns out, Owens said he will walk away with his head held high. After all, not many athletes can advance this far with a devastating injury -- let alone doing it twice.

"I'm proud of everything I learned along the way, and the people I've been fortunate to be a part of it with," he said. "I'm not one to pat myself on the back, but I think it's definitely something I keep inside and I'm proud."

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.