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Iowa's Austin lost and found

BY TORK MASON | MARCH 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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Justin Austin didn't have the sort of indoor season many expected from the All-American sprinter. He battled minor injuries and was disqualified twice.

The former transfer from Kentucky said he lost his edge.

"I wasn't as [mentally] tough as I was last year," he said. "I came out here as a transfer and had so much to prove, and then the next year it's hard to get it going again."

It took the junior several tries before he posted an official time in the 200-meter dash during the indoor season. He made two trips to Arkansas because the fast track would have theoretically benefited his time, but was disqualified on both occasions for running on the lane lines.

Assistant coach Joey Woody said Austin was also trying to refine his technique during the year to prepare for the outdoor season, which may have held him back at times indoors.

"We were working on some technical things on his 60-[meter dash], and sometimes you have to take one step back in order to take two steps forward," he said.

Head coach Larry Wieczorek said Austin pushed through some minor injuries throughout the season that kept him from reaching his full potential. Austin also suffered an injury during the Big Ten championships.

But Austin kept the blame for his performance on himself and said he took things for granted.

"It was just that mindset that [people] owe you, and they don't owe you anything," he said. "They don't owe me; they won't let me cheat if I step on the line. It's tough [to have success] when you have that mindset that they owe you when they really don't."

Wieczorek said the indoor season provided Austin a chance to push through adversity that could pay dividends this season, but he stressed that the junior shouldn't worry about the big picture at this point.

"When somebody's struggling mentally, I tell him to go back to kindergarten," Wieczorek said. "Break it down to its simplest form and just focus on the basics — maybe don't try to hit a home run, just try to hit the ball. Just put your best self on the field and don't try to do too much."
Woody agreed.

"We just have to keep focusing on the day-to-day things and not get too far ahead of ourselves thinking too far down the road," he said. "That might have been part of the problem during indoor, thinking about the national meet in January instead of focusing on the task at hand — which is going to set us up to run well later."

Austin will try to put his best self on the track, and he'll do it by taking on new challenges. Woody said he wants the Milwaukee native to increase his workload this spring.

"We're advancing him so he can run more 400s and 4x400 [relays] for us," he said. "I think those are events he can excel in down the road. He's just got to keep wrapping his mind around being a really good 400-meter runner, which is ultimately going to help him in the 200."

Austin said running 400s will improve his stamina and respiratory strength.

"Running the 400 will make any runner better in the 200 and the 100," he said.

Austin's season begins today in Fayetteville, Ark. He said the disappointment from the indoor season helped him find the chip he had on his shoulder when he first arrived in Iowa City — and he's ready to show it.

"Just watch out for me — that 's all I'm going to say," he said.

Follow DI men's track reporter Tork Mason on Twitter.


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