EUGENE, Ore. – Justin Walker finally got sole possession of the Northwestern State 100 meter dash record Friday, posting a 10.12 time that was fourth in the national final at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, with the Demons’ senior taking aim at Saturday afternoon’s 200 meter title.
Walker recovered from a subpar start in the eight-man final to surge in the second half of the race. Baylor freshman Trayvon Bromell, who had a 9.92 in the semifinal round Wednesday, won in 9.97, with Florida State senior Dentarius Locke second at 10.02, USC’s Aaron Brown next in 10.07, followed by Walker and Texas A&M’s Shavez Hart (10.15). Texas-Arlington’s Clayton Vaughn ran sixth in 10.19, with Desmond Lawrence of North Carolina A&M next (10.236) and Florida’s Anwan Wright eighth in 10.240.
“I had a bad reaction to the gun and didn’t start like I needed. I was playing catchup and against the guys at this level, that’s tough,” said Walker. “I’ll just have to use it to be better tomorrow for the 200 and hopefully it benefits me in that race.”
“He gave up too much in the first 30 meters, unfortunately,” said first-year Demons’ coach Mike Heimerman. “If he’d gotten the start he was getting in warmups, or at the conference meet, it would have been enough to win because he was at least the equal of everybody after the first 30 meters.”
Walker admitted to disappointment with his finish but said text and social media messages from friends and fans have been uplifting.
“I’d loved to have placed higher. The support from everybody back home has been amazing and inspiring,” he said. “I want to go out tomorrow and have my best race.”
The senior from Slidell-Northshore runs at 4:42 Saturday afternoon on ESPNU in the eight-man 200 meter final. He was the fifth-fastest qualifier Thursday with a 20.70 into a 2.4 mph headwind. He holds NSU’s school record with a 20.47 winning the Southland Conference crown early last month.
Walker is the first-ever Southland sprinter to reach the 100 and 200 meter national finals in the same year, and the first Demon to accomplish the double. His 100 finals berth was the fourth in school history, following Mark Duper (finishing second, 1982) and Ronnie Powell (seventh in 1997 and 1998).
“He didn’t get the national title and I know that’s what he wanted but he’ll have a lot of hunger tomorrow in the 200,” Heimerman. I’m just super proud of him. Our goals coming here were to make the finals in both races and see what might happen. Fourth in the nation, and getting sole possession of the school record, is pretty special and maybe some lightning strikes for him tomorrow.”
Walker previously shared the NSU school mark in the 100 (10.13) with Powell (1998), equaling the mark as a freshman, before going through reconstructive knee surgery in 2011 after his sophomore year. Walker had bettered that performance three times, all with a legal wind for qualifying purposes (under 4.0 mph tailwind) but too much (over 2.0) for record consideration. He ran a blistering 9.95, at the time the best in the world, winning the Southland crown on May 11 with a 2.5 mph wind. Walker had a 10.08 with a 3.7 mph wind at the April 26 Leon Johnson NSU Invitational and clocked 10.113 with a 2.3 mph win Wednesday while winning his semifinal heat at Hayward Field.
“At least he gets the school record by himself, finally. All those other times were wind-aided, but legal, and at least now he holds both our sprint records by himself. That’s a mouthful considering the athletes like Joe Delaney, Mark Duper, Ronnie Powell, Rayvn Hayward and many more who have been Demons,” said Heimerman. “But there’s no doubt with the way he’s competed, the name on top of that 100 meter list ought to be Justin Walker.”