Iowa sprinter DQ’ed in 200 meters

BY BEN SCHUFF | JUNE 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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DES MOINES – Iowa sprinter Justin Austin was disqualified during the 200-meter dash semifinals Thursday night at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships.

Shortly after Austin finished ninth overall — missing the finals by one spot — officials announced that the sophomore had been disqualified for a lane violation.

While Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek hadn’t received any explanation, he said it was probably the result of successive steps on one of the lane lines.

Austin said he wasn’t disappointed about being disqualified, considering his final time of 20.73 wasn’t enough to qualify for the finals anyway. He did say, however, that he didn’t think he stepped on either of the lines to his lane.

NCAA officials weren’t available to clarify the violation.

Disqualification aside, Iowa’s best sprinter barely missed qualifying for the finals, placing third in his heat and ninth overall. The top two runners from each of the three heats automatically qualify for the finals, along with the next two best overall times.

The sophomore posted his second-fastest time of the year despite a nagging hamstring injury, but Tennessee’s Dentarius Locke was just a hair faster and claimed the last spot in the finals with a time of 20.69 seconds.

“Since I’ve been hurt, I just can’t open up my stride,” Austin said. “I can get out with everybody, but during the last 70 meters — when I usually take off — I can’t pull out. I can’t go any faster.”

Austin tweaked his right hamstring during the 100-meter dash at the NCAA West Regional two weekends ago, and Wieczorek was concerned he had lost his first-year Hawkeye for the remainder of the regional meet. However, Austin was able to come back one day later and qualify for the semifinals in Des Moines in the 200 meters.

The Kentucky transfer battled through many injuries throughout the season, but this one finally came back to get him at the biggest meet of the year.

“Once I saw my time, I was like, ‘That’s not going to get to [finals],’ ” Austin said, prior to discovering he had been disqualified. “It’s a bittersweet ending because I’m hurt — but I made it [to finals] hurt. You just can’t run hurt with the best people in the nation.”

Iowa assistant coach Joey Woody said he knew Austin might be a little behind the competition because his star hadn’t done much in practice in an attempt to rest the hamstring.

Woody also felt Austin was at a disadvantage running in lane three, partly because of his injury. As it turned out, no sprinter that ran in lane three qualified for the finals.

“It’s just a tighter circumference, so he’s just got more torque on him — and especially on his leg,” Woody said. “You could see he got out [to a] great [start], but then, coming off the curve, he had to wait to pick it up. His transition wasn’t what we wanted it to be coming off that curve.”

Wieczorek’s post-race statements about Austin were similar to those he made about runners Erik Sowinski and Ethan Holmes Wednesday night — he was disappointed that each missed the finals, but the results don’t take away from their outstanding seasons.

“We’re fortunate he was at his best at the Big Ten championships,” Wieczorek said, noting Austin’s past injuries. “It’s just a fine line whether you make or you don’t [to finals], and he was just a little bit off and just missed it.”

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