JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After posting a wind-aided time of 9.95 seconds in the 100 meters to claim the Southland Conference title, Northwestern State’s Justin Walker didn’t expect to run that kind of time Friday night.
Running on a sore Achilles tendon in the quarterfinals of the NCAA East preliminary rounds, Walker still qualified for the NCAA championships when he finished fourth in his heat and 11th overall in 10.31 seconds.
The top 12 finishers in each event at the preliminary rounds advance to nationals next month in Eugene, Oregon.
When he didn’t earn an automatic spot with a top-three finish in his heat, Walker, a Slidell native, had to sweat out the final two heats to earn one of three positions awarded based on time.
“I didn’t do anything I was supposed to do technique-wise,” said Walker, who later advanced through the first round of the 200 meters in 20.81 seconds. “I didn’t get a great jump in the 100 like I usually do. My transition phase wasn’t what it was supposed to be.
“I wasn’t able to get a full push (out of the blocks) like I wanted because of the Achilles. But we have time to work on that before nationals. I’m just happy I made it.”
Walker will go for two more berths in the NCAA championships Saturday when he lines up in the 200 quarterfinals and 4x100-meter relay.
Walker was the only athlete from a state school other than LSU to advance to nationals Friday, but Louisiana Tech did get two athletes to Saturday’s quarterfinals when Kim Francis made it in the women’s 100-meter hurdles and Trey Hadnot joined Walker in the men’s 200.
Francis was third in her first-round heat of the 100 hurdles with a time of 13.99 seconds, and Hadnot won his 200 heat in 20.66 seconds.
Two other Louisiana athletes made it to the quarterfinal round of the 200: Grambling’s Jamael McTear clocked a time of 20.90 seconds, while UNO’s Darius Roy claimed an automatic spot when he was third in his heat at 21.14.