EUGENE, Ore. – Justin Walker’s Friday frustration created focus and it led to happy results Saturday for the Northwestern State senior sprinter, who took third in the 200 meter dash and propelled the Demons to 20th place in the final team standings at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Still stinging despite setting a school record with his fourth-place 10.12 clocking Friday in the 100 final, Walker ran his fastest 200 ever, 20.13, bettered only by a 19.91, the best time in the world this year, from Florida junior Dedric Dukes and a 20.02 by USC senior Aaron Brown. Fourth in 20.31 was LSU junior Aaron Ernest, followed by Baylor senior Everett Walker (20.42), Auburn freshman Khalil Henderson (20.61), Oregon junior Arthur Delaney (20.79) and Texas-Arlington junior Clayton Vaughn (26.22).
“My race yesterday fueled my fire today. I did not want to go out with a performance like that,” said Walker. “I had a better reaction to the gun, and that gave me the advantage I lacked yesterday. I came through the curve in good shape and I ran all the way through the line. It is probably as good a 200 as I’ve ever run.
“My hat’s off to the guys I ran against up here. Dukes and Aaron Brown, guys of that caliber, the top sprinters in college track, I knew I’d get pushed and today I think I responded very well. It was about me staying composed, not giving up when challenged, and not letting up at the end of the race, and I was much better today,” he said.
“He had a pretty good start and was in great position in the curve. He had a great race. It couldn’t have been too much better,” said first-year coach Mike Heimerman. “He had a little chip on his shoulder and he had some nerves knowing it was his last race wearing a Northwestern State uniform, live national TV, with a sellout crowd. The only disappointment is the wind (+2.1 mph), just barely over allowing his time to be a school record. He had a phenomenal day and a great last race as a Demon.”
Northwestern finished 20th in the team standings on the strength of Walker’s work this week. NSU joined 18th place Western Kentucky and Akron, tied for 20th, as the only non-BCS athletic programs in the national top 20. LSU was fourth with 29. No other state school scored, while Stephen F. Austin (two points, tied for 64th) was the other Southland Conference member in the men’s team standings.
USC’s Brown, third in the 100, was the only sprinter who outscored Walker, whose 11 points are most ever by an individual NSU competitor at any NCAA Championships, indoors or outdoors, giving NSU its third-highest team total ever and best team finish since 1982.
The Demons posted 17 points in 1982 with Mark Duper fourth in the 100, John Campbell fifth in the shot put and the 4x100 relay team finishing second. In 1981, NSU scored 16 points with the champion 4x100 relay team and Steve Stockton taking third in the javelin.
“Wow, that’s really a blessing to be able to have that said about me. It’s a credit to everybody who has helped me. To be mentioned alongside (Mark) Duper and (Joe) Delaney and the great sprinters we’ve had at NSU, and be in the same conversation with Olympians like LaMark Carter and Kenta Bell, I’m just very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had at Northwestern,” said Walker.
The Slidell-Northshore product, who will finish the final three hours of credits to earn his undergraduate degree this summer, said he was inspired by encouragement during the last few days.
“I appreciate all the love and support everybody sent my way, with text messages, Facebook posts, Tweets and calls. All the people back home posting pictures of them wearing purple, it was uplifting, and I wanted to make them proud. All the glory goes to God,” he said.
He was excited about the scoring that lifted the Demons into the nation’s track and field top 20.
“Hopefully this is a weekend that can start Northwestern track and field to even greater achievements in the years ahead. I’m leaving behind some good teammates and coaches, and I know there are some very talented recruits coming in, and hopefully what I’ve been able to do can help move the program forward,” said Walker.