Arkansas Track Inks Pool of Talented Signees
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The 2005-06 recruiting class put together by Arkansas track and field could be one of its best ever, as some of the nation’s best prep athletes signed up to be a Razorback during this year’s signing period. Six distance runners and one field athlete will look to take their athletic endeavors to the next level as they help continue Arkansas’ winning tradition. The class includes the 2004 Footlocker Cross Country Champion, four current United States leaders, three indoor national champions and an Irish junior record holder.
“This is the best recruiting class we’ve had in some years, as far as the depth goes,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We’re a little top heavy in the distances, but my philosophy has always been if there are good athletes out there you have to get them, no matter what event they compete in. Good athletes win championships.”
Chris Barnicle of Boston, Mass., attends Newton North High School and currently has the best 3,200-meter (8:53.00) and two-mile (8:56.20) times in the U.S. He is considered one of the premier athletes from the northeast region, winning the 2004 Foot Locker Cross Country Northeast Championship and finishing sixth at nationals. His high school cross country team has not lost a meet since he began as a freshman.
Kenny Cormier is a product of Douglas High School in Tucson, Ariz. He has the top mile time in the country with a clocking of 4:12.67 and claimed the Foot Locker West Regional Championship, before going on to capture the National Cross Country Championship. At the indoor national meet he won the two-mile (9:11) and took second in the mile (4:13).
Colin Costello hails from Meath County, Ireland and has already established himself as an international caliber athlete, as he took two silver medals at the European Youth Olympics in Paris last summer. Costello recently set Ireland’s indoor 1,500-meter national junior record in February with a time of 3:46.17 and finished second to former UA distance star Alistair Cragg in the outdoor 1,500 meters (3:45.34) at the Irish National Championships. His other personal best times include 1:51.14 in the 800 meters and 8:32.20 in the 3,000 meters.
Daniel LaCava of Hurst, Texas attends Grace Prep Academy. In addition to athletics LaCava has excelled in the classroom and was a National Merit semifinalist. He is coming to Arkansas as a state divisional cross country and track champ and has a personal-best 1,600-meter time of 4:16.
Scott MacPherson of Plano, Texas made his presence known at the Texas Relays last weekend as he was named the most outstanding high school athlete when he won the 1,600 (4:18.35) and 3,200 (9:02.19) meters in dominating fashion. At Plano Senior High School he was a two-time state cross country champion and record holder with a time of 14:34. He is also the Class 5A State 1,600 and 3,200-meter champion.
Ben Schulz continues a tradition of athletes joining the Hog team from The Woodlands, Texas and will become the sixth athlete on the UA roster to hail from the successful Houston area school. Schulz is no stranger to Fayetteville after he captured the individual title at the Chile Pepper Invitational Cross Country Festival. He boasts a best time of 9:24 in the 3,200 meters and was earned various academic and leadership awards.
In addition to the fantastic distance runners that Arkansas picked up, it was able to land the country’s best triple jumper. Nkosinza Balumbu of Union City, Calif., has the nation’s top mark with 52-4.00, a distance that was the 10th best all-time in California under any conditions and would have already qualified him for the NCAA Regionals. Balumba attends James Logan High School and is the defending state champion and claimed first at the Nike Indoor Nationals.
Along with J’Mee Samuels who was signed in November during the early signing period, the young Razorbacks may be unstoppable once to arrive on campus. Samuels, a product of Mt. Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., was ranked by Track and Field News as the country’s best high school sprinter, entering his senior season. He has the nation’s top 200-meter time of 21.10 and had a decorated prep career with three state titles to his name. In 2003 he won both the 60 and 300-yard dashes and in 2002 he won the 60-yard dash.
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