NSU's Walker advances to national championship in 100 meters - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

NSU's Walker advances to national championship in 100 meters

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JACKSONVILLE, FL (NSU sports information) -

Hampered by a sore Achilles' heel, Northwestern State standout sprinter Justin Walker did just enough Friday to qualify for the national meet for a second straight season in his specialty, the 100 meter dash, and also reached Saturday night's regional finals in the 200 at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds track and field championship.

The top 12 in each event at the regional meet advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore., and Walker has a chance to qualify in two more events Saturday evening, the 200 and the 4x100 meter relay, where he was an All-American last year. He is NSU's only returner from that foursome.

Walker ran just fast enough in the 100, 10.31, to advance to Eugene as the 11th of 12 national qualifiers. He was fourth in the first heat with the top three finishers automatically qualifying for Eugene, so had to sweat out the next two heats to see if any of the remaining 16 runners who weren't top three in their heats ran faster than he had.

In the third and final heat, Tevin Hester of Clemson leapfrogged Walker with a 10.28 time, but the fifth-place finisher, Dennis Richardson of Louisiana Tech, posted a 10.35 and missed advancing by two slots. Running in the second heat, Florida State's Cejhae Greene nipped Jalen Miller of Ole Miss for 12th place and the last spot by a 10.321 to 10.325 margin.

LSU's Aaron Ernest was the third-fastest qualifier in 10.19 while Dentarius Locke of Florida State was easily No. 1 in 10.03.

In the opening round of the 200, with the regional field of 48 pared down to 24 with Friday's three heats, Walker automatically advanced with a third-place finish in his heat, running 20.81. The top three in each of six heats, and the next six fastest runners, moved on to Saturday's regional final. Walker's time was 11th-best in Friday's heats. He came into the meet seeded seventh regionally at 20.47.

"He did what he needed to do to get qualified for Saturday night (in the 200)," said NSU coach Mike Heimerman. "He ran the first 180, secured a top three finish, and cruised in. His Achilles' heel is hurting him and that was a big factor in the 100. He actually changed his start leg so he wasn't pushing off it out of the rear of the blocks, and that's an immense difference. It shows how gifted he is to be able to make that switch and drive off the other leg to start, and still be in the top 12 and get to nationals."

The other three NSU competitors Friday did not advance. Senior Consuela Lindsay ended a highly-accomplished career with a 58.77 clocking in the women's 400 meter hurdles, not making the top 12 headed to Eugene and placing 22nd among the 24 regional finalists.

Junior Aaron Williams was 21st in the triple jump with a 50-2 ½ mark.

For the second straight day, sophomore Rechelle Bessard finished much higher than her seeding. She was 26th, 15 above her regional seed, in the discus with a 160-11 throw, but would have needed to go 10 feet better than her 163-5 season's best to make the top 12 and earn a trip to Eugene. Thursday in the hammer, she was 13th spots better than her seed, taking 25th.

"We've got six kids competing Saturday and we're excited about the opportunities that lie ahead," said Heimerman. "Obviously Justin's not 100 percent, but he is so smart about what he needs to do and how to handle himself, and he is so geared up about helping his teammates on the 4x100, I have all the faith in the world that he'll have a good day."

Walker will run the third leg on the 4x100 with freshman football receiver Shakeir Ryan coming out of the blocks, handing to junior Keenan Jackson, who will give it to Walker with freshman Ty Shilling waiting on the anchor leg. The team, formed just a month ago, ran a 39.89 (13th regionally) to win the Southland Conference title. There are 27 regional qualifiers in the relays, with three heats against time. The top three teams in each heat plus the next three best times advance to Eugene.

Also Saturday, junior Keona Jackson, seeded 38th with a 49-8 ¼ best this spring, competes in the shot put to start NSU's Saturday schedule. Sophomore Por'Sha Thomas competes in the women's triple jump, where her 41-7 best that won the Southland crown is 43rd regionally.

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