SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Arkansas senior Josphat Boit completed an amazing event double and a stellar Razorback career with a national runner-up finish in the 5,000-meter run on Friday night at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex.
Boit (14:13.81) chased down Iona’s Richard Kiplagat (14:13.84) in the last 50 meters to earn a second-place medal in his final collegiate race. Wisconsin’s Chris Solinsky, the nation’s top-ranked 5,000-meter runner, won the race in a time of 14:11.71. Boit was the only runner at the NCAA meet to run in both the 5,000 and 10,000 this weekend. Friday night’s race was the third for Boit in less than 72 hours after winning a preliminary heat of the 5,000 on Wednesday night and clinching a 10,000-meter national championship on Thursday night.
“It was a heck of a double for J.B.,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “I’m proud of him. It was a great way to finish his senior year and his career.”
Boit’s second-place finish upped Arkansas’ team total to 22 points to put the Razorbacks in fifth place after 10 events. Arizona leads the men’s team competition with 28 points while Tennessee (26 points), Wisconsin (24 points) and Virginia Tech (23 points) rank second, third and fourth, respectively heading into the final day of competition.
“We are having a good meet,” McDonnell said. “We just don’t have enough bodies. We have the javelin and the 1,500 left and we have 22 points now. That isn’t bad. We aren’t in the team race, but I would love to get in the top five.”
Despite being short-handed, Arkansas has held true to its tradition of excellence at the national meet. Boit embodied that to perfection on Friday night on the final lap of the 5,000 meters. Even with Solinsky well ahead cruising to a victory, Boit sprinted from a distant third place past Kiplagat to edge the Iona runner at the finish.
“I gave it all,” Boit said. “The guy (Solinsky) was strong and had a good day. I forgot all about yesterday. I felt like I was fresh like any other person. When I came to the start line (on the last lap), I saw Kilplagat slowing up and I said ‘I’m going to get him.’”
That type of effort didn’t come as a surprise to his legendary coach. McDonnell said despite the fatigue of three races in as many days, Boit found the strength to make one last charge.
“That shows you the type of competitor he is, because he had to be tired,” McDonnell said. “He was right there with a lap to go and the Wisconsin kid (Solinsky) took him out. J.B.’s legs are tired. I’m not taking anything away from Solinsky. He did what he had to do, but J.B. did a tremendous job.”
Boit’s impressive performance at the NCAA meet even won the admiration of the NCAA 5,000-meter champion. Solinsky had nothing but praise for his distance rival after Friday night’s battle.
“For him to first win the 5K prelim and then come back to win the 10,000 and give a dominating performance like he did last night and then come back and put up a strong second (it is impressive),” Solinsky said. “That guy is tough. You have to give him a ton of credit for doing what he did. It would’ve been nice if he would have been fresh to see what we could’ve done, but maybe in the future. He is a great runner and he had a great meet. Hopefully he can go on to bigger and better things. I’m sure he will be able to.”
Although Boit spent only two years in Fayetteville after transferring from Cowley County [Kan.] Community College, the distance star managed to rack up eight All-America honors and two NCAA individual crowns. His near miss at pulling off the NCAA 5K and 10K double put in some elite company in the school record books. Former Razorback great Alistair Cragg also nearly turned the trick in 2003 when he won the 5,000-meter run and finished second in the 10,000-meter run to teammate Daniel Lincoln. In the 10,000, Cragg finished hand-in-hand with Lincoln and pulled off at the finish line to allow his senior teammate to win the individual national title.
“For two years, he had a tremendous career,” McDonnell said. “He had a career that most guys who had four years wouldn’t have a career like that. In February, he won the indoors and every race since then he just dominated. This is the first race he has been beaten since then.”
Senior Seth Summerside couldn’t match the heroics of his second-place semifinal finish in the 5,000 on Wednesday night in the final. Summerside finished off the pace in 16th in a time of 14:35.28.
Whiletwo Arkansas careers were winding down, a Razorback rookie was also hoping that this weekend would be the culmination of an outstanding outdoor season. Freshman Nkosinza Balumbu had been looking forward to this year’s NCAA Outdoor Championships ever since he signed with the University of Arkansas last year. The Union City, Calif., native had his sights set on competing for the Razorbacks in the triple jump at the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, just 90 miles from his hometown. Balumbu was well on his way to that dream until he pulled his right hamstring on an attempt at the NCAA Mideast Regional two weeks ago in Knoxville, Tenn. He had already earned a spot in the national meet with a previous jump, but his status for the NCAA Championships was immediately in doubt.
Balumbu tested the hamstring in warm-ups and took two jumps before bowing out of the competition on Friday. The Razorback freshman fouled on his first attempt. On his second attempt, Balumbu couldn’t muster his customary speed and jumped only 47-5 3/4. After consulting with Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth, Balumbu passed on his final attempt and finished 26th in the qualifying round.
“We thought he might be able to pull off one 51-footer and get to the final, but it’s just not there and it’s not worth chancing it,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth. “It is disappointing for two reasons. One, we are just creeping into the picture (on the team race) and secondly his family is from here. He has been looking forward to coming here since he got to Fayetteville. It is a shame that he wasn’t full speed.”
For Balumbu it was a disappointing end to his otherwise quality rookie campaign. Balumbu said he knew after his second jump that he wasn’t healthy enough to pull off a qualifying mark for Saturday’s final.
“Coach (Booth) walked down to me and told you jumped 47 you probably are going to need a four-foot increase to even get into the final,” Balumbu said. “He said ‘I don’t know if it is worth it to run faster and re-pull it or doing anything like that.’ Maybe if it were a foot or two I would have tried it again or I had jumped 49 (foot) I might have tried it again. But the fact I went 47, we decided we would just wait and see what I can do in two weeks.”
Balumbu now has set his focus on getting healthy for the junior national meet in two weeks in Indianapolis, Ind. The No. 3 ranked collegiate triple jumper in the nation is taking his first NCAA outdoor experience as a positive step towards another of his goals to make the U.S. junior world championships team.
“I was just fortunate that I could do something (today),” Balumbu said. “It gave me confidence for the upcoming junior nationals. When I first hurt it, the trainer didn’t even think I could get this far. The fact that I was able to go out there and compete (was an accomplishment). I didn’t re-injure it or anything. I’m not healthy, but I didn’t hurt it worse than it already is. Hopefully these next two weeks going up to junior nationals will give me a chance to get back close to my normal self and make the world team.”
Arkansas will close out the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships with two competitors on Saturday. Senior Eric Brown will try to rebound from a lackluster qualifying round to compete for a national individual crown in the javelin. Brown is the nation’s top-ranked javelin thrower and will be seeking the first javelin national title in school history. Competition in the javelin gets underway at Noon CT (10 a.m. PT).
Junior Adam Perkins will be the Hogs’ last competitor on the track on Saturday. Perkins will run in the 1,500-meter final at 4:04 p.m. CT (2:04 p.m. PT). The Liberty, Mo., native has fought through a chronic right Achilles injury to earn a spot in the final for the second-consecutive year. Perkins finished fourth in the 1,500-meter run last season.
CBS will air portions of the final day of the NCAA Championships live beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT. The live broadcast will feature Perkins’ race as well as highlights of the javelin competition from earlier in the day. The show will also review Boit’s win in the 10,000-meter run and highlights of the 5,000-meter run.