SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After becoming one of the premiere sprinters in major college track and field as he scored 11 points as a Northwestern State senior at the NCAA Outdoor Championships early this month, All-American Justin Walker makes his last races in Demon gear and takes his first steps on his post-collegiate competitive path beginning Thursday at the 2014 USA Track and Field Championships.
After a fourth-place 100 meter dash finish at the NCAA meet in Eugene, Ore., Walker runs in the first round of the 100 dash qualifying at 9:45 CST Thursday night, hoping to advance to Friday’s 8:07 p.m. semifinals and the 10:52 p.m. final that night on the newly renovated Sacramento State track, site of the 2000 and 2004 USA Olympic Trials.
In the 200, Walker was third at the NCAA Outdoors. First round competition at the USA Championships in the 200 begins Saturday afternoon at 1:20 CST, with semifinals Sunday at 1:30 CST and the final set for a 4:09 start Sunday afternoon.
Track & Field News analysts predict Walker, who won three All-America honors in the past two years and owns both NSU school records, will reach the finals in both sprints. T&F News projects him seventh in the 100 and eighth in the 200.
“Their form charts have him in both finals, which is exciting. Nobody studies the sport more than those people and it’s quite a testament to what he has done this year for them to rank him that highly coming into his first-ever USA Championship,” said NSU head coach Mike Heimerman.
“That’s his goal, to get to the finals. At this level there’s no letting up in the qualifying rounds, you have to go full throttle every stride to advance. He’s trained well, he’s in a great frame of mind, he’s excited to be here and he’s focused,” said Heimerman. “The best sprinters in America, some guys who have Olympic and other international experience, are in these events. I think it will bring out his best, and who knows, maybe we won’t have wind issues and in his last event wearing Demon gear, he can lower his school records.”
Walker is among 150 collegiate men who qualified for the USA Championships with outstanding 2014 marks.
His best wind-legal 100 time is a school record 10.12 at the NCAA Championships, with two faster marks over the 2.0 mph wind speed allowable for records and international qualifying: the 9.95 in winning the Southland Conference crown on May 11 with a 2.5 mph tailwind, and a 10.08 winning the Leon Johnson NSU Invitational April 26 with a 3.7 mph wind.
Nike’s Michael Rogers has the fastest wind-legal time, 9.90, on the USA Track and Field list, followed by two other sub-10 second marks by Charles Simon (9.98) and Walter Dix (9.99). Former Olympian Justin Gatlin has clocked a 9.86 time recently.
In the 200, Walker’s school record 20.47 is his best wind-legal time, run winning the Southland title. He flew to a 20.13 time taking third at the NCAA meet with a barely-over 2.1 mph tailwind.
Nike’s Isiah Young is top seeded with a 19.86 best mark, with NCAA champion Dedric Dukes of Florida second at 19.97, along with Curtis Mitchell of adidas.
Internet and network television coverage will be available throughout the meet. All events will be webcast on USATF.tv while Friday’s races will be on NBCSN from 9-11 p.m. CST, and live on NBC Saturday from 3-5 p.m. and on Sunday from 3-5, after an opening hour 1-2 on Universal Sports.