Sprinter slowing down to get faster


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Justin Austin had to slow down to become faster.

As technical as short sprints can be, one false step can cost a runner valuable time, maybe one-tenth of a second.

That 0.10 of a second has been exactly what the sprinter has shaved off his 60-meter time each of the past two meets en route to a school record.

And yet Austin isn’tsatisfied.

“It’s never enough,” he said. “When you finish and you see the time and your coaches, you’re happy. But the next day, you’re back trying to improve.”

That’s an interesting prospect considering what the sophomore has accomplished. In not even a month’s time, Austin has etched his name in the Hawkeye record books.

The Milwaukee native needed only two meets to establish himself as one of the most exciting athletes to watch on the track.

At the Jack Johnson Minnesota Classic on Jan. 21-22, the sprinter broke the 12-year-old school record in the 60-meter with a time of 6.72 seconds. That performance, paired with his 200-meter time (21.73), broke meet records as well.

Austin was back at it again this past weekend in Arkansas. For the third-consecutive meet, he improved his 60-meter time, finishing in 6.71 seconds.

But that wasn’t all he had in store for his business trip south. Austin broke the 18-year-old school record in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.83 seconds.

Those times in the 60 and 200 meters rank fifth and 22nd nationally, and both rank first among Big Ten sprinters.

All this came after he was named the male Big Ten Athlete of the Week following his first-ever Big Ten meet at Illinois on Jan. 8.

If it’s tiring to read Austin’s long list of accomplishments, realize this: He’s only competed in three meets as a Hawkeye.

Further down the road, he is chasing a time of 6.64 in the 60 meters — his goal time for the season.

To get there, improving his form out of the blocks has been Austin’s latest concern. While his first step was good, his second step needed work. He needed to slow it down.

Enter assistant coach Joey Woody, who, Austin said, had him making gains after only a few practices.

“He was getting a big push out of the blocks on the first step,” Woody said. “But then his second step, he was trying to rush it a little bit. We had to get him to focus on not being at top speed on his second step.”

Woody said he felt the Hawkeye sprinter had the best start of anyone at this past weekend’s Razorback Invitational.

Austin also got a little help from the women’s sprints coach Clive Roberts. Roberts talked with the men’s top sprinter, comparing his technique to shifting gears in a car.

“The goal for the first part of the race is build momentum,” Roberts said. “It just seemed like he wasn’t doing that effectively. If you look at shifting gears, he was trying to go fifth gear right in the beginning instead of building up to it.”

Head coach Larry Wieczorek, who is in his 24th year at Iowa, said he knows he has something special on this year’s team.

“I stepped back and looked at it this weekend when he broke the record of Anthuan Maybank, who was an Olympian in 1996,” Wieczorek said. “[Maybank] was one of the best athletes at the University of Iowa in anything.

“[Austin] has the chance to be the best sprinter at Iowa ever.”

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