Healthy U runner seeks redemption at Drake Relays

by David La

The prestigious Drake Relays, which take place April 23-24 in Des Moines, Iowa, mean something different to each athlete.
For Minnesota junior Jason Owen, Drake is his opportunity for vindication from injuries that have hounded him throughout his career.
“(Drake) is one of the few meets of the year we put emphasis on,” Owen said. “I hope to do pretty well and get a little recognition for myself.”
The Stewartville, Minn., native will have ample opportunity for recognition, as the Drake Relays attract upwards of 18,000 fans. The large crowds might seem overwhelming for some, but not for Owen.
“It’s fun to go to a meet where there is a lot of people, a lot of crowd noise,” Owen said. “You don’t get that a lot around here.”
What the distance specialist does seem to get, however, is injured. Owen missed the outdoor season his freshman year with injuries, tore a hamstring during his sophomore outdoor season and strained a calf muscle at the indoor championships in February.
Though he has shown resilience in returning from each injury, Owen is wary of being tagged with the underachiever label.
“Being a scholarship athlete, you feel like you’re supposed to do the best,” Owen said. “People are giving you all this help and when you keep getting hurt, it’s hard to do anything for them. I felt a little guilty about that.”
If last season’s Drake results are any indicator, Owen could have a weekend that would help to absolve some of the setbacks he has suffered. He placed third in the 800-meter run and took part in the 4×800 relay team that finished fourth.
Coach Phil Lundin called Owen an athlete “capable of being national caliber” but isn’t expecting much from the Drake meet.
“Even though it’s a huge meet, you still have to take into consideration the health and well-being of the athletes,” Lundin said. “Ultimately the goal is having your top performance in the Big Ten or NCAA championships. Those things always have to be kept foremost in your mind.
“The team still has a lot of possibilities, and we’re looking forward to how the year unwinds.”