FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nkosinza Balumbu gave himself an early birthday present Saturday night with an NCAA title win in his beloved triple jump. Balumbu will turn 21 years old on Sunday and has plenty to celebrate.
“I wanted to start with a big jump and I did it,” Balumbu said. “I was happy. I thought I was going to come back for some more, but I guess all the adrenaline and anxiety leading up to the event really wore me out and my legs were gone after about the second jump, but I had to keep going. I had a pretty good series. All my fair jumps were over 16 meters so I was happy with that.”
Balumbu, the 2008 captain of the Razorbacks, earned his first NCAA title with a personal-best leap of 54-3.25. The jump, marked on his first attempt, hoped, skipped and jumped his way into the Arkansas record books with the likes of Mike Conley, Edrick Floreal and Erick Walder, some of the best triple jumpers in NCAA history and NCAA title winners.
“It feels great to win my first national title,” Balumbu said. “I feel like the Lion King right now. I feel like Simba going up and taking over Pride Rock and looking down at his territory. I feel like I just put my stamp on the triple jump right now and I don’t want to look back. I want to keep it going and win Nationals from now on until I graduate.”
Balumbu is the 15th Razorback to win an NCAA Indoor triple jump title. His victory is the 51st individual title win for Arkansas in NCAA Indoor competition. Balumbu’s resume now includes an NCAA title, four All-America honors, four SEC titles and five All-SEC honors.
“He was the unanimous choice to be our team captain,” field events coach Dick Booth said. “He really believed he needed to take it on himself and lead by example. We’ve gotten better since he was named captain. Our conference meet was a lot better and it’s good for him to feel that extra responsibility. He’s the kind of kid who can handle it. Everybody likes for him to be the leader because he’s a good and humble kid.”
“I told him he had a chance to go out and win it on the first jump,” Booth said. “I told him ‘you will have a lot more fun all day if you can get a big one’ and he did.”
In the team race, Arkansas finished sixth with 24 points. Arizona State won the men’s team title with 44 points. Florida State was second with 41 points and Texas completed the top three with 34 points. The Razorbacks ended the championship with six All-America awards from five student-athletes. Arkansas now totals 190 All-Americans with 651 All-America honors.
“I am really happy for Nkosinza,” head coach John McDonnell said. “He’s been knocking on the door and had some back luck but he did it on his first jump and that was great. He’s just such a great kid. J-Mee had a coming out party. Four personal bests every time he stepped on the track—that’s unbelievable. I’d have a hard time remembering (someone setting four PRs) in one meet.”
J-Mee Samuels ended his coming-out party that was the NCAA Championships with a fifth-place finish in the 60 meters and another All-America honor. He clocked another personal best, his fourth of the weekend, with a time of 6.64.
“This is just wonderful,” sprints coach Kyle White said. “I was a little worried and I didn’t know what the 200 would have gotten into him. I was more concerned with the emotional aspect of last night and how he would deal with that, but the warm-up was better than he’s had all year. He was focused in the pavilion. I knew, at a minimum, that he would run what he ran yesterday, but he ran a PR again. That’s four personal records back to back to back to back. It’s unbelievable to come with that high intensity back to back to back to back like that and in events that are so critical. There’s no room for error in either of those races.”
Samuels, now a three-time All-American, ended the two-day event with 10 points for the team total. His third-place finish in the 200 meters Friday night yielded another personal best of 20.67, the fifth-fastest time in the world this year.
“It was another PR for me (in the 60 meters),” Samuels said. “I got fifth, but as long as I’m getting a PR, I’m doing well. I know I stepped up another level this weekend. The outdoor season is something now to look forward to for me. Now that I’ve stepped up another level, I’m looking to do big things this outdoor season. I’m very satisfied. I’m proud of myself, but it’s another day so I have to get ready for outdoor season and I’m really looking forward to that.”
In the mile finals, Micky Cobrin was the top Hog finisher in eighth-place to earn the first All-America honor in his career. He clocked a time of 4:05.99. Andy McClary was right behind him in ninth place with a time of 4:06.46.
“I was happy to see Nkosinza do really well,” McDonnell said. “J-Mee is back for real because he’s got his confidence back. A few of our distance runners didn’t do what I thought they should have done. We really overloaded them in the conference meet and I think it caught up to them here. We finished in the top six so it’s not real bad. We’ve got some good people coming on for outdoors. Peter Kosgei will be back for the outdoor, Spencer (McCorkel) in the pole vault and Duncan Phillips will be back, so I think we’ll be a lot better team outdoors.”
Arkansas will open the outdoor season April 2 at Texas Relays.
The NCAA Championships will be aired, tape-delayed, Thursday, March 20, 3-4:30 p.m., on ESPN2.
For complete details of the NCAA Indoor Championships and Arkansas track and field, visit www.hogwired.com.
Download: NCAA Final Results.pdf