March 29, 2023 at 10:32 p.m.

Through heart surgeries, Volkman stays steady

Through heart surgeries, Volkman stays steady
Through heart surgeries, Volkman stays steady

By Evan Michealson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Sauk Centre archer finds success despite health struggles

SAUK CENTRE- From the moment he was born, Owen Volkman has dealt with adversity and factors beyond his control.

The Little Sauk Township resident entered the world with a rare birth defect called transposition of the great arteries (TGA), where two large arteries carrying blood out of the heart are switched in position.

With the possibilities of breathing difficulties and heart-related health risks looming large, Owen received his first open heart surgery at just six months old, the start of a lifelong series of surgeries that has continued sporadically throughout his 12 years of life.

This condition also prevented Owen, an athlete by nature, from participating in any contact sports. So, he picked up archery, which required only a bow, a target and himself. It has led to the youngster finding steadiness and security in his now-favorite passion, as Owen is one of many talents flashing for the Sauk Centre archery program.

“I just like being with my friends and competing against older kids, trying to beat them,” said Volkman, a sixth grader competing in the middle school division.

Owen’s role as one of the highest-scoring shooters in the program is nothing short of spectacular given the challenging, frightening situation he experienced leading up to the season. He was participating in a soccer game in November when he broke his arm, leading to a hospital visit in St. Cloud. While he was being treated, his doctors noted Owen had an upcoming heart appointment and gave him an echocardiogram. Upon the ultrasound’s reveal, one of Owen’s arteries was suffering from blockage, requiring his third open heart surgery on short notice.

“He was bummed out at first when he found out the surgery was so soon, that archery was just starting and he would have to miss so much archery,” said Neva Volkman, Owen’s mother. 

Ultimately, the recovery process from the Nov. 17 operation allowed Owen to return to Streeters archery practice a couple of weeks before the season-opening Melrose Archery Tournament Jan. 21. Even with less time to shake off the rust, he put up a 256, the third-highest mark from a sixth-grade boy in the event.

“He’s naturally an athletic kid, so finding archery and having him in archery is something he can easily do and excel at,” Neva said. “We’re so glad the school offers that type of thing.”

As it turns out, that 256 was the beginning of a meteoric rise to elite archery territory for Owen, who earned a 282 at the Minnesota Region 3 Tournament in Becker March 18. This was not only a new career high; it was the top Sauk Centre boys score, regardless of grade level.

“He’s really stepped up his game this year, from fifth to sixth grade,” said Jason Volkman, Owen’s father. “Now, he’s shooting with the middle school, and it’s neat to see how much he’s improved in one year.”

This high-level performance, due to his competitiveness, raised internal expectations, and inside the jam-packed Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the site of the 2023 NASP Minnesota State Archery Tournament, Owen took aim and fired with precision under pressure, collecting a 280.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said.

From an external perspective and seeing Owen succeed in this manner, it would be hard to tell there was anything unusual about the assured archer launching deadly-accurate arrows at targets. But life for Owen and the Volkman family is not always easy. Driving down to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital for appointments and living with the constant understanding that TGA is there can be mentally exhausting for all parties involved. 

“It takes your mind off all the little problems in life,” Jason said.

Through it all, whether it is Jason’s parents that live down the street or a surefire, responsive support system, help is always there for the Volkman family on Owen’s continued path of perseverance.

“We just have friends and family that we rely on,” Neva said  “They’re always there to help out and step up. We definitely appreciate that.”

Another figure central in Owen’s life and wellbeing is his older brother, Colton. Colton, a ninth grader, also competes for Sauk Centre archery, and provides a familiar face and friendly competition for Owen.

“It’s fun,” Colton said. “You like to be together all of the time.”

How TGA affects Owen off the back of another artery replacement is uncertain. But, with the determined, vigilant fighter continuing to make his mark on Sauk Centre archery, it is hard not to be thrilled at his remarkable progress. 

“When you think of everything else other people are going through, you’re thankful for what you have,” Neva said. “Yeah, he has a few surgeries here and there throughout his lifetime, but anyone off the street looking at him would never know anything was even wrong with him. We’re blessed that way.”



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