SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Arkansas senior Josphat Boit dominated the 10,000-meter field to win an individual national title and the Razorbacks racked up 14 points to move to the team lead with Wisconsin after three events on Thursday at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex.
Boit earned 10 points with a first-place finish while fellow senior Marc Rodrigues tallied four points with a fifth-place performance in the 10,000-meter run to tie the Razorbacks with the Badgers after the second day of the four-day meet. Nebraska and Arizona are tied for third with 10 points with at trio of teams tied for fifth with eight points.
Boit blistered the talented field with a time of 28:37.64 to win his second NCAA individual crown and his first outdoors. The Kenyan literally left his competition on the 19th lap of the 25-lap race to cruise to the Hogs’ seventh 10,000-meter individual crown in school history including their third in the last four years. Boit overwhelmed the 26-man field that in a performance reminiscent of the Razorbacks’ most recent winner in the event prior to Thursday, Alistair Cragg. The senior joined a long list of Arkansas champions in the event including Joe Falcon (1987), Teddy Mitchell (1994), Godfrey Siamusiye (1995-96), Daniel Lincoln (2003) and Cragg (2004).
“That was excellent,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “I told him whenever he felt good (break away). Anytime after 5K if he felt like the guys weren’t running that strong put the hammer down. He did. He did a great job and broke it open.”
Boit ran with Rodrigues in the early going and settled in at fifth place for the mid-portion of the race. With approximately two miles remaining, Boit made it academic by sprinting past the field.
“The plan was to sit because I knew I could kick anytime with those guys,” Boit said. “But I didn’t want to kick and pull up or something like that because I still have the 5K tomorrow. I felt good and nobody responded. That is when I went out and maintained.”
His teammate was more than impressed watching Boit’s effort from the track behind the pace. Even with the familiarity with Boit, Rodrigues was taken back by the move the two-time NCAA champion made.
“I kind of fell asleep behind those two guys,” Rodrigues said. “I saw him go by me. By the time I saw him he had a gap ahead. I don’t think I could have gone with him anyway. It was awesome. He has been looking good in workouts. I’m not that surprised at all.”
“Boit will attempt to pull off a national championship double on Friday night when he competes in the final of the 5,000-meter run. The soft-spoken standout isn’t promising another victory, but anyone who saw Thursday night’s performance would be hard pressed to bet against him.
“I can say I’m going into the 5K with confidence,” Boit said. “I have achieved the first goal. I’m going for the next. I don’t know how much I have left (in my tank), but I can feel a little something.”
Rodrigues came up big in his final race as a Razorback. The South African shattered his personal best in finishing fifth with a clip of 28:49.23. His effort scored four valuable points for the Hogs in the team race
“I was hoping for a top-three finish, but I gave it a good shot,” Rodrigues. I hung in there and gave it the best I could. It was a personal best.”
Rodrigues even impressed his training partner with the best run of his career. “Marc ran really good,” Boit said. “He P.R.-ed big time. I told Marc going in it would be like our workouts. We have been training together for the last two weeks and he has been looking good. I told him to just hang in there and he did.”
Junior Adam Perkins was also impressive in his semifinal effort in the 1,500-meter run. Perkins ran a season-best time of 3:41.55 to finish fourth in his heat and automatically advance to Saturday’s 1,500-meter final.
“I was in perfect position the whole time and really never got in trouble,” Perkins said. “I kind of relaxed the last 100 meters in fourth. There was no reason to kick it in because I knew I had a good margin.
“Today was so nerve racking. I kept telling my teammates ‘I can’t wait until this day is over. Just get me to the final and I will be fine.’ I got the pre-race jitters out of the way and now I can relax and enjoy tomorrow. I’m just thankful for this great race. People still don’t think of us (Arkansas) as a contender (this year), but I do.”
At one point earlier this spring it was uncertain whether Perkins would run at all in the outdoor campaign. The Liberty, Mo., native was sidelined with a right Achilles injury until the conference meet and has not been at full speed for his previous two meets. McDonnell was extremely pleased with Perkins’ effort in the 1,500 semifinal and feels that the gutsy junior may have turned the corner on Thursday night.
“He looked great,” McDonnell said. “That is the best I’ve seen Adam look since last year. One thing that is on his side is that he is not over-raced. He is all fired up himself. He says he feels great. I was looking to see how light he was on his feet. He was light. He was ready to takeoff. I think he is ready. He just needs to go in relaxed. I’m not going to try to tell him he needs to win it. He is going to give a good account of himself I believe.”
Perkins is quick to credit the guidance of his legendary coach for his successful rehabilitation comeback. The four-time All-American was still hobbled when he took the track for the Hogs in the SEC Outdoor Championships in mid-May. Perkins says he is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was when he helped lead Arkansas to its 79th league title at John McDonnell Field.
“A month difference is huge,” Perkins said. “With Coach McDonnell, I had full faith in his training. I hammered those pool workouts for a reason and now it is paying off. I had just had to get my legs back under me and I did. I think from a physical, mental and spiritual aspect this is been huge for me. I feel on cloud nine right now. The big thing is the finals and I will just have to re-focus again.”
Perkins will take to the starting line in the final of the 1,500-meter run on Saturday at 4:04 p.m. CT (2:04 PT). The race will be part of CBS’ live coverage of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Senior Eric Brown struggled to find his rhythm in the javelin qualifying on Thursday and nearly missed out on advancing to Saturday’s competition. The No. 1 ranked javelin thrower in the nation needed a throw of 223-9 on his final of three attempts to advance. Brown claimed the 10th of 12 qualifying spots.
Brown’s confidence was shaken a bit when he slipped on the runway on one of his practice throws and then again on his first attempt of the competition. His first throw measured 214-10 and his second sailed 220-0 1/2. Neither of his first two throws would have been good enough to advance. The Baldwin City, Kan., product changed spikes and changed his fortunes on his final attempt earning his spot in Saturday’s javelin competition. Brown said the unsure footing had a significant impact on his outing.
“It did a lot,” Brown said. “It’s not an excuse or anything. I was pretty nervous. I felt good in warm-ups and I still feel good now. I know what to do when I get there, but hopefully it works out a little better on Saturday.”
Coming into the meet, Brown had hoped to eclipse the automatic mark of 236-3 early in the qualifying round. An automatic measurement would’ve allowed Brown to pass on the remaining throws and conserve his energy for the main competition on Saturday. While it didn’t play out as planned, Brown was thankful to have an opportunity to work out some nerves before the weekend javelin competition.
“I like this qualifying day,” Brown said. “So far it hasn’t been tough to throw the two days like this even though they are pretty close together. I’ve messed myself up three years in a row now and didn’t do quite what I wanted to do the first day. I always want to get that automatic mark. I did in warm-ups, but that doesn’t count.”
Arkansas volunteer javelin coach Andrew McDonough said Brown looked primed for a good day in the early stages of the warm-up period. “He was warming up real well,” McDonough said. “He was throwing easy in warm-ups. In the meet he just looked like a different person. He has two days to re-group and get it back together. He just has to throw better. It always comes down to that, just throw better.”
Brown’s main rival, North Carolina’s Justin Ryncavage, cruised to the final posting the field’s best qualifying throw of 243-3. None of Thursday’s marks carryover to the preliminary rounds and final set for Saturday.
Arkansas is still a dark horse to capture its 43rd team national championship, but miss-steps by some of the favorites have allowed the Razorbacks to hang around in contention. With the Hogs’ track record, it is doubtful that anyone has left McDonnell and the Razorbacks in the rear view mirror just yet.
“That is 14 points, but we have a long way to go,” McDonnell said. “We will score some points. I don’t know if it will be enough to win it. You take it one race or one jump at a time. We have some good people coming tomorrow.”
Friday’s action at the NCAA Championships may include only two Razorbacks in the final event of the evening. Boit and senior Seth Summerside will compete in the 5,000-meter run final at 7:30 p.m. PT (9:30 p.m. CT). Summerside set a personal-best with a time of 13:55.73. The clip was the third-fastest qualifying time in the 5K in the semifinal round.
Freshman triple jumper Nkosinza Balumbu is also entered in the qualifying rounds in the triple jump set for Friday afternoon. However, Balumbu’s status for the event is questionable as he continues to mend from a hamstring pull suffered at the NCAA Mideast Regional meet. The Union City, Calif., native was ranked No. 3 in the triple jump heading into the national championships.