SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Arkansas senior Josphat Boit took the first step in his quest for an individual national championship and senior Seth Summerside made up for a disappointing finish from the past as both Razorbacks posted qualifying times in the semifinals of the 5,000-meter run on Wednesday at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex.
Boit finished fourth in the first heat of the 5,000 and posted the eighth best time to advance to Friday night’s final. Boit stayed in the middle of the pack for the early portion of the race, but moved into the leaders with approximately halfway through the race. From there, Boit ran smoothly and automatically qualified for Friday night’s final by virtue of his top-six heat finish. The Kenyan is ranked fourth nationally in the 5,000 meters this week by Trackwire.com.
“I wanted to run as easy as possible,” Boit said. “I didn’t want to kill myself kicking. If you come in the first six places you make the final. That is what I did.”
Before he takes the track for the final in the 5,000, Boit will compete for a national title in the 10,000-meter run on Thursday night. Boit is ranked No. 1 in that event and posted the best 10K time in the nation this season when he ran 28:22.09 at the Stanford Invitational in March.
Senior Seth Summerside used Wednesday night’s 5,000-meter preliminaries to take out some frustration built up from last year’s national championships. Summerside missed the NCAA final in the 5,000 last year by one-tenth of a second. The Joplin, Mo., product left nothing to chance this year finishing second in his heat with the third-best time of the semifinal round at 13:55.73.
“I’ve been thinking about last year every day all year,” Summerside said. “I missed out by a tenth of a second. I just wanted to hammer it and make a statement in the prelims and make it to the finals. I feel extremely confident going into the finals. I learned a lot last year. My fitness is up and I’m sharp right now. I just really want to help the team make an impact this year.”
Summerside sat comfortably in the pack until the final lap when he broke to the lead. He never fell back beyond third on the final turn and finished second with a sprint.
“I was relaxed out there,” Summerside said. “It felt like an easy run until the last lap, I just felt like I glided. I’m extremely confident going into the finals.”
Sophomore Shawn Forrest came up short in his bid to advance to the 5,000-meter final on Wednesday night. Forrest finished 11th in his heat and 23rd overall with a time of 14:24.19.
Junior Greg Martin failed in his attempt to qualify for the main high jump competition later this weekend. Things started off well enough with the Texan making his first attempt at 6-10 3/4.
Martin appeared to have clinched a spot in the championship field after he cleared 7-0 1/4 on his second attempt. However, after 19 athletes cleared the height the bar was raised to 7-1 1/2 to cull the field to 16 or fewer. Martin came up empty on all three attempts at that height and was eliminated from the competition. A total of 13 athletes cleared 7-1 1/2 and will compete on Friday in the finals.
“I really thought if he made it on the first attempt of the last (cleared) height he really had a chance to make it,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said. “But when he missed it, I knew he had to make this one and I just didn’t know. He can jump that high, but he hasn’t very often. He competed hard. I think he forced it a little bit on his last height. He got out of his rhythm. Hopefully he will learn from it and next time will do better.”
Martin also thought his clearance of 7-0 1/4 would punch his ticket to Saturday’s final round. The All-SEC performer was preparing to take off his cleats when he was informed of the jump-off.
“I just cooled down and then I found out there were 19 people left and I had to go another height,” Martin said. “I probably lost some of my confidence. Whatever I had left, I couldn’t put it together for another good jump. This is fuel for next year. It was a good experience. I’m going to take this as a lesson.”
Another Razorback field athlete got some better news on Wednesday. Freshman Nkosinza Balumbu was named the 2006 Southeastern Conference Freshman Male Field Event Athlete of the Year by league coaches. Balumbu won the award for the second-consecutive time after capturing the freshman rookie field event recognition after the indoor season as well. At last month’s SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Balumbu won the triple jump with a best of 53-4 1/2.
“I think it is good to get indoors and outdoors and set my mark early on in my career,” Balumbu said. “Now hopefully I can go into next year and get the actual (overall) field event athlete of the year award. To do that I think I’m going have to come up in the long jump as well.”
Balumbu is scheduled to compete in Friday’s opening round of the triple jump at the NCAA Championships. However, a hamstring injury suffered at the NCAA Mideast Regional in Knoxville, Tenn., two weeks ago has left the freshman questionable for action this weekend.
“I’m just trying to get on the runway,” Balumbu said. “We tried to test it out again today and it didn’t go so well. Now we will just wait these two days and hopefully I will be able to get on the runway and try to compete and see what I can do. If I can get down the runway without too much pain, we will see how it goes.”
Action continues at Hornet Stadium on Thursday with junior Adam Perkins in the 1,500-meter semifinal and seniors Marc Rodrigues and Josphat Boit in the 10,000-meter final.