Justin Walker claimed not one but two titles at the Southern California Championship meet this past weekend at Antelope Valley College.
As the Orange Empire Conference champion in only his freshman year, Walker headed to AVC confident and a favorite to seriously contend for a double crown in the men’s long jump and the men’s 110-meter-hurdles.
“Justin is easy to coach because he is built for the two events he competes in, and he is natural gifted athlete,” said head coach Sean Sheil. “I knew he had the capability to win it was just a matter of executing.”
Walker’s first attempt at a title came in the men’s long jump. After qualifying with the best mark, Walker was able to skip his first jump in the final round and get a look at the other competitors.
His first jump in the final round was 7.23 meters, which was good enough for first place after the second round. Before his final jump, the duo of Vincent Calhoun and Stacy Chuwunmezie of Cerritos College took hold of first and second place with jumps of 7.38 meters and 7.36 meters respectively.
With only one jump left, Walker knew his only chance at a title would require a personal best. He delivered with a jump of 7.40 meters, claiming the Southern California title.
“I just prayed to God that he give me strength and let me do my best to hit my mark,” Walker said. “When I heard the judge say 7.40, I just threw my hands up and celebrated.”
With one title claimed, Walker was ready for another, as he competed later in the 110-meter-hurdles.
After qualifying for the championship heat with ease, Walker faced another talented field of runners including last year’s champion, Cameron Atkins of Mt San Antonio College. Atkins ran the third fastest time of any community college competitor all year.
Again Walker knew his previous best was not going to be good enough and he was going to need something special.
He delivered again with a time of 14.34 seconds, edging out Atkins by 1/100 of a second who finished with a time of 14.35. It was Walker’s best time by 2/10 of a second.
“Everyone had counted me out because I was going against the favorite, but I just used that as fuel to win,” Walker said. “I got over the hurdles smooth and was even with the [Atkins] but I got him in the end with the lean.”
Up next, Walker will be competing in the California Community College Track and Field Championship, Saturday at San Diego Mesa College.
Walker’s times will ensure him being a favorite to repeat as champion in both events. His mark at long jump beats at the Northern California co-champs, who won with jumps of 7.30 meters.
“Now that [Walker] is the champ he’s not just some unknown,” Sheil said. “He’s going to have a target on his back, but if does his best I think he can compete with anyone.”