FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas senior Josphat Boit and junior Peter Kosgei improved their NCAA provisional qualifying times in the 3,000 meters and freshman Nkosinza Balumbu turned in second-place finish in the triple jump on the second day of the New Balance Collegiate Invitational at The Armory Track and Field Center in New York, N.Y., on Saturday.
Boit won the 3,000-meters in a time of 7:58.29 crossing the line just ahead of Kosgei who clocked in at 7:59.00. Both Razorbacks improved their previous NCAA provisional qualifying times, but still aren’t guaranteed spots in the NCAA Championships set for March 10-11 in Fayetteville. Boit’s previous season-best time was a 7:58.91 performance at the Arkansas Invitational last month. Kosgei bettered his previous top time of 8:00.51 also earned at the Arkansas Invitational.
“Josphat and Peter improved their provisional times just by a little bit this weekend,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell. “I was hoping that they could secure an automatic mark, but they will have some other chances. Next weekend we will probably let them get away from the 3,000 and concentrate on the 5,000 meters. I think they will both be there in the end.”
Senior Marc Rodrigues and sophomore Shawn Forrest turned in notable performances in the mile run. Rodrigues finished sixth and picked up an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 4:04.28. The South African improved his season-best in the event by more than seven seconds. Forrest posted a ninth-place finish in the mile with a 4:05.55 clip. Freshmen Chris Barnicle and Kenny Cormier finished off the pace at 19th and 22nd, respectively. Barnicle failed to improve his season best with a time of 4:11.37. Cormier had a quality outing in the making before stumbling and falling off the banked track. Cormier quickly gathered himself from the fall and still managed to finish 22nd with a time of 4:19.10.
“I was proud of the way Marc and Shawn ran today,” McDonnell said. “They were getting some distance work in and they looked good. They were a few of the bright spots we had today.”
Although he didn’t improve his season-best time, senior Said Ahmed returned to the track with a solid outing in the 800 meters. Ahmed crossed the line in fourth place with a time of 1:50.18. McDonnell was also encouraged by the work of sophomore Jonathan Norris in the 5,000-meter run. Norris finished third overall in a field of 42 runners with a time of 14:21.89.
“I am pleased with Said and the way he is progressing,” McDonnell said. “He continues to come on and that is what we need. He will be a big part of our run down the stretch. Jonathan had a good day in the 5,000. It is good for him to have some success on a big stage away from home. That performance should give him some more confidence.”
In other track action on Saturday, freshman Jeremy Dodson failed to advance to the finals in the 200-meter dash. Dodson finished second in his heat and 12th overall, but his time of 21.76 wasn’t good enough to make the eight-person final.
News was marginally better for the Hogs on the field events’ front. Freshman Nkosinza Balumbu continued his impressive rookie campaign with a second-place finish in the triple jump. Balumbu jumped 51-7 while sophomore Chessly Johnson tallied fourth-place honors with a leap of 50-07. Johnson has been suffering from a sore heel and actually changed his takeoff leg in his last outing to compensate for the injury. Earlier in the day, freshman Daniel Quinn finished sixth in the collegiate triple jump with a mark of 48-6 1/4.
“I think we found out that it is tough for Nkosinza to compete in events on back-to-back days at this point in his career,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said. “He took three long jumps yesterday and I think that may have taken a little bit of toll on him. He continues to make a good progression and he is going to be there. I was happy for Chessly. He is coming around. He had a couple of fouls that were over 51 feet. It was really his first healthy meet of the year.”
Junior Greg Martin matched his top indoor mark of the season when he recorded a jump of 6-11 1/2 in the high jump. Martin’s mark tied for the third-best in the meet, but the native of The Woodlands, Texas, finished fifth based on misses.
Senior Tony Ugoh improved his best mark in the weight throw on the way to a fifth-place finish in the event. Ugoh’s best throw measured at 59-0 3/4. Senior Jimmy Duke has already provisionally qualified for the Razorbacks in the heptathlon this season. On Saturday, he competed in the pole vault recording a top height of 15-7.
Although several of Arkansas’ field event competitors turned in encouraging performances, Booth said the real value of the weekend could reveal itself in the days and weeks to come.
“We needed to get out of town so we can appreciate being back at home,” Booth said. “We needed to stir it up a little bit. Hopefully next weekend we have a little better feel for things and some more tenacity.”
McDonnell says that is a must not only for the field event athletes, but the entire squad. The winner of 41 national championships at Arkansas, McDonnell is still looking for leaders to emerge to lead a squad seeking national title No. 42.
“We came out a little flat this weekend,” McDonnell said. “We need to get cranked up and run like we can. We are not doing what we are capable of doing. We are a little slow coming around this year. We are in great shape, but we aren’t getting it done in the meets. We need someone to step up and stamp their name on this team as a leader.”
Arkansas will also be looking to add more qualifiers to its NCAA entry list at next weekend’s Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. With only the Tyson Invitational left before SEC Championships, time is of the essence for the Hogs.
“Now we are in a position where we have to run some fast times. The Tyson Invitational will hopefully be the true start of our indoor season. It will be the beginning of what I hope will be a whole new season.”