Matt Vines, Northwestern State Assistant Sports Information Director
NATCHITOCHES — After injuring a tendon that effectively ended his Northwestern State career at the Southland Conference Championships in May, all sprinter Micah Larkins wanted to do was to get back on the track.
He did just that on July 12, running in his first professional meet and clocking a 10.18 in the 100 meters, continuing a trend of sub-10.20 times topped by his NSU wind-legal record of 10.12.
Larkins signed a professional contract with World Express Sports Management earlier this month, and after knocking off the proverbial rust in the professional meet in Houston, he faces the first real test Thursday.
The Haughton native will run in the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, as he tries to make a name for himself toward the end of this professional season.
The first round of the men’s 100 meters will be contested Thursday at 5 p.m. with the second round coming Friday at 6 p.m. and the Nike 100 meters finals going at 7:53 p.m.
“I worked off some rust in Houston in my first meet in two months, and I’m going to treat the USAs like any other meet,” said Larkins, a four-time NCAA All-American and a six-time Southland Conference champion. “But I’m a little nervous, and I hadn’t been nervous before a meet since my freshman year.
“The feeling of (being a professional runner) is surreal so far. It’s everything you’ve worked for since you were young. It’s a blessing and an opportunity that I’m going to take full advantage of.”
This week won’t be Larkins’ first appearance on a national stage with professional runners.
He competed at the USA Championships this past summer, finishing 23rd in the 32-man field with a 10.23.
“It’s exciting to step on that stage again,” Larkins said. “I can’t get intimidated. I’ll be running against the top guys in the country, from college to the pros.
“To compete on that level, you’ve got to have the mindset like you belong with the rest of them. I do feel like I belong, I want to make sure that they’re going to feel me.”
The USA Championships are a month later than usual this year, allowing Larkins to heal from his IT band injury suffered in May.
Larkins was a prime candidate to add to his All-American haul, likely boosting the men’s 4X100 relay to the NCAA Championships (the foursome was a tiebreaker away from qualifying without him) and being a potential national championship contender in the 100 meters.
“It was definitely hard to move past that, it’s been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” Larkins said. “To be in front of my home crowd for the last time and get injured, it’s hard put those things in the past.
“But a wise man once told me that time waits on no man, and I had to go hard in rehab and get past it. I have a bond with my teammates like (Tre’Darius Carr, Javin Arrington and Kieve Harry), and once you get that trust, it can’t be broken. They helped a lot, and my (sprints coach Adam Pennington) has been tremendous in helping me through this process. Those are the things you cherish.”
Pennington, who has played a huge role in Larkins’ development, said he has no doubt Larkins is capable of advancing at the USAs. Larkins enters the meet ranked 27th with seven of the top-end guys clocking sub-10s this season.
“His 10.18 in Houston – he had a terrible first 60 meters with an incredible finish,” Pennington said. “He might have run a sub-10 (seconds) with a better start, and a lot of that has to do with not running for eight weeks.
“This is the right place and the right time for him. He can get through that first round, and then anything can happen in the second round and possibly the finals. He’s ready and he’s healthy.”
Already one of the 32 fastest Americans, Larkins isn’t just chasing one of 16 second-round spots or one of eight finals spots.
He’s also seeking a 10.05 mark, the new and improved Olympic qualifying standard. Larkins’ grandmother is Korean and moved to the United States in her 30s. He would be eligible to compete for South Korea in the 2020 Olympics should he qualify.
“That’s what we’re working for,” Larkins said in an interview with Shreveport radio host Tim Fletcher as part of the show’s Fork ‘Em Friday slot featuring Northwestern State. “That’s the goal.”
Larkins will don the NSU jersey for the final time this week, but he says he’ll carry his Haughton High and Demon roots wherever he goes.
“Ever since I started running at Haughton, all you heard about was Joe, Joe, Joe,” Larkins said of the legendary Joe Delaney, who excelled at Haughton, was a football All-American and a part of NSU’s national championship 4X100 team, and was the AFC Rookie of the Year for the Kansas City Chiefs before drowning in an attempt to save three boys. “He’s the best athlete to ever come through Haughton.
“So breaking his Haughton (100 meters) record was big, it made me stand out. Following his footsteps by coming to NSU, being part of breaking his 4X100 record. I’m blessed to come out here and work every day to be a part of that tradition. I’ll be a Speed Demon forever.”