June 5, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The sun is setting on the collegiate career of the greatest short sprinter in University of Iowa history. It could be a moment to reflect on all the medals, awards, and accomplishments senior Justin Austin has stockpiled during his time as a Hawkeye.
But while many sprinters swagger about the track with a chest-pounding bravado that cries “Look at me,” the diminutive and quiet Austin spends no time thinking about the past, and all the times when his torso leaned across the finish line before anyone else.
“There are days that I don’t think about winning the Big Ten championship or that I was MVP of the Big Ten Championships,” Austin said. “But there is not a day that goes by when I don’t think about my friends that made this experience what it was.”
Friends like fellow seniors Jordan Mullen, Ethan Holmes, and Josh Larney, who, when teamed with Austin, form one of the most formidable 4×100-meter relay foursomes in the nation; And a friend like coach and counselor Joey Woody, who has been with Austin every stride and stumble along the way.
All athletes have idols, and while Austin says his favorite sprinter is Tyson Gay, who was fourth in the 2012 Olympic Games 100-meter dash, his real hero is Woody.
“There are days that I don’t think about winning the Big Ten championship or that I was MVP of the Big Ten Championships. But there is not a day that goes by when I don’t think about my friends that made this experience what it was.”
“As far as who I look up to it’s pretty-much my coach,” Austin said. “He has been my mentor since I got to this campus. He has put in work with me from day one — my bad days, my good days, he had my back.”
The good days have outweighed the bad for Austin, the fastest man in the Big Ten Conference. So far it has been a storybook final season for Austin, who says he is injury-free for the first time in his career. He was a three-time league champion, winning the 100 (10.27) and 200-meter (20.86) dashes, and running the second leg on the gold-medal-winning 4×100 relay (40.20). For the second time in his career, Austin was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Big Ten Championships.
After the remarkable conference meet, Austin took Austin, Texas, by storm. At the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds on May 23-25 at Mike A. Myers Stadium, he qualified for the NCAA Finals by running the fourth-fastest time in the 200 (20.53), the 10th-fastest time in the 100 (10.52), and running a leg on the sixth-fastest 4×100 relay (39.79).
Next time in the starting blocks will be at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
“If I go out there, and I’m fresh, and I run my race, there is no doubt in my mind that I can beat anybody in the NCAA right now,” Austin said.
UI director of track & field Larry Wieczorek has seen many of the fastest Hawkeyes over the years. The quickest-ever is Austin, who holds school records in the 100 (10.21), 200 (20.31), and 4×100 (39.35).
“Justin’s credentials and resume reads as an all-time great,” Wieczorek said. “You can make a valid case for him being the greatest sprinter in the history of the University of Iowa in terms of titles won and the honors.”
If all goes well, Austin will run six races in four days in Eugene. He opens Wednesday, June 5, with the 4×100 semifinals at 6:15 p.m. (CT) and the 100 semifinals at 7:45. The semifinal of the 200 is Thursday at 6:15 p.m.
“I’m a competitor. No matter who I’m running against, I go out there and compete 100 percent every time,” Austin said.
A native of Milwaukee, Austin will continue his running career after college. He is set to compete in the USA Track & Field Championships from June 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa, then he will take his talent overseas.
“God-willing, I will be able to continue doing this because this is what I love to do,” Austin said.