Javelin thrower Arianne Morais has been through so much in her brief UTEP track career with injuries, there were reasons to think she had just one more throw in her season last week before starting the important business of getting healthy.
That’s been a years-long process for the Norwegian, who had elbow surgery in August — her second — after making plans to transfer from Florida to UTEP. Morais has barely been able to practice this season, her competition has been limited, she took one throw at the Conference USA championships. That was her first legal javelin throw of the season.
What Morais, a sophomore, has is talented in that rocket of a right arm, she just needs time to get it right. She bought some of that time with a big third and final attempt (167-feet, 5-inches/51.04 meters) at the NCAA West Preliminary meet in Fayetteville, Ark. Her fourth legal throw of the season moved her from 26th to 10th in the preliminary and earned her one of 12 West qualifying spots in Eugene, Ore., Next week.
“I knew the first two throws weren’t going to get me to nationals,” said Morais, who qualified for the national championships in 2021 when she was at Florida but was unable to compete because of an injury to her ulnar nerve. “I just had to stick to focusing on my technique, just give it my all on my last chance.”
Coach Meka Laaksonen knew that throw was inside her waiting to get out. Morais’ season before that had been one javelin throw at conference and two shot put competitions.
“She’s struggled with injuries and really hasn’t had a good season since she was a much younger athlete,” Laaksonen said. “Ella She had surgery in August before she came to UTEP, we knew that and things have n’t gone as expected, she did n’t heal as expected.
“She’s been struggling with what she can do and what she can’t do. She really hasn’t had enough throws under her belt, even practicing, to see what she can do and what she can’t do. I know she’s super -talented, I know 51 meters is not unexpected for her at all.
“She has the potential for much further throws.”
More:UTEP launches ‘915’ campaign to connect city of El Paso with university
The 23-year-old Morais’ path from Norway to Florida and now El Paso is full of personal connections. Florida’s well-traveled throws coach, Steve Lemke, was formerly a coach at UTEP who recruited and coached Laaksonen with the Miners. Lemke later went on to be the national throws coach for Norway.
Morais’ youth coach in Norway knew Lemke that way and steered her to Florida, where last season as a freshman she threw 180-10/55.13 that stands as her personal best. By comparison she that she would rank 13th nationally this year.
Along the way she was injured again, Lemke retired and recommended she transfer to throw for Laaksonen at UTEP.
Finding a coach who could work with her through her injuries was key.
“The biggest thing for me is going to a coach I know I can trust, listening to my coaches in terms of technique,” Morais said. “That’s the most important thing for me. He advised me coach Meka would be a good coach for me.”
Morais is a power-conference talent, but the injuries, combined with the fact that most javelin throwers only compete in one outdoor-only event in a sport where scholarships are limited, meant UTEP was an attractive offer for her.
More:UTEP sprinter Jevaughn Powell peaking as nationals season arrives
“I like the weather, I like being where it’s warm,” she said. “The people are welcoming, I like the coaches we have and my teammates.”
Next up is the NCAA Championships, but the long-term goal is getting back to full health.
“I’ve progressed a lot since my surgery in August, getting strength back in arm, getting the flexibility back,” Morais said. “That’s positive. I’ve been injured for five years, that’s been tough.
“It felt good to be able to make it through regionals, even though I know there are a lot of things to work on, that I need to continue to do. I need to continue my rehab and other stuff to get even more healthy to throw at my full capacity.”
Laaksonen sees that day getting closer.
“The good thing is on that third throw (at regionals) she didn’t feel bad,” Laaksonen said. “The third throw was cleaner. That tells me we can get throwing practice in, which will be her second or third throwing practice this year. That’s how bad it’s been.
“She had an MRI a couple of weeks ago and there is nothing structurally wrong with her elbow. She just needs more time.”
The rehab can continue in a week but first she’ll have a day at Eugene on the biggest stage in American track.
Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; email@example.com; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.
NCAA Track and Field Championships
When, where: June 8-11, Hayward Field, Eugene
TV: June 8-9 ESPUU, June 10 ESPN 2, June 11 ESPN