KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Arkansas senior Josphat Boit out-kicked Wisconsin’s Chris Solinsky, the nation’s top-ranked distance runner, to win a regional title in the 5,000-meter run and earn a berth in the NCAA Championships on Friday night at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Mideast Regional.
Boit crossed the finish line in 14:00.73 to capture the first 5K regional title in Arkansas history. Boit became the 13th Razorback to win a regional crown in four years of competition. South Alabama’s Tonny Okello (14:01.15) earned runner-up honors while Solinsky (14:02.01) finished third.
Solinsky was ranked No. 1 in the 5K in the latest event rankings released by Trackwire.com. The Wisconsin junior still holds the nation’s best time in the event at 13:27.94. But on Friday night, it was Boit, ranked third in the 5K rankings, who took center stage with a sprint down the homestretch. Boit remains undefeated at 3-0 in the 5K this season after winning the event at both the Mount San Antonio Relays and the SEC Championships as well.
“It was exciting to run against those guys that I haven’t run against this season,” Boit said. “Psychologically I wanted to win. I take every race like it was my last race. I think that this (being the first Razorback to win a regional 5K) is a big prize for me. It is one of my last races and I always want to win.”
Arkansas head coach John McDonnell was pleased with Boit’s performance on Friday night. Although McDonnell admits that nationals will be a tougher road to hoe, the legendary coach certainly isn’t counting out his senior star.
“Josphat looked really good,” McDonnell said. “He is in really good shape and his speed is excellent. He can run with anyone in that field with no problem. Solinsky, the kid from Wisconsin with the best time, was in there. Nationals will be a whole different ball game. But no collegiate guy has beaten Boit this year in the outdoor 5,000. He wants to keep it that way.”
Razorback junior Marc Rodrigues also punched his ticket to the NCAA Championships next month in Sacramento, Calif., by finishing fifth in a time of 14:09.83. Rodrigues rallied on the last lap to secure his place in the national meet. Senior Seth Summerside helped set the pace early, but just missed his own berth into the national meet finishing sixth with a time of 14:11.27. Sophomore Shawn Forrest (14:46.59) finished off the pace in 12th place.
“Marc Rodrigues’ race was excellent,” McDonnell said. “Marc ran a gutsy race. He ran smart the whole way. (Seth) Summerside shouldn’t have been up there at the front. He should have sit in and relaxed a little bit. He has to learn to depend on his kick. He has a good kick if he wants to use it.”
By virtue of his top-five finish, Rodrigues earned a trip to his first NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. However, the South African found clinching a spot in the national championship meet was anything but easy.
“I really went in with the wrong mindset,” Rodrigues said. “I thought it would be kind of easy and I could coast through. I worked real hard. I think that is the hardest I’ve ever worked. I just told my self to hang in there. You know what you have to do. It feels awesome (to be going to the NCAA meet). It was worth all the hard work.”
Arkansas earned 17 team points with its three top eight finishes in the 5,000. After five scored events, the Razorbacks rank third behind Louisville (25) and Akron (18). Although team finish is more of an afterthought to qualifying for nationals, the Hogs have won the first three NCAA Mideast Regionals contested since the format was adopted.
Defending Mideast Regional 1,500-meter run champion Adam Perkins secured his chance at defending his individual regional title. Perkins finished second in his heat of the 1,500-meter run on Friday to automatically advance to Saturday’s final. The Liberty, Mo, product clocked in at 3:49.69, the fourth-fastest time of the preliminary round.
Perkins has been hampered by a right Achilles injury for a majority of the outdoor season. In fact, Perkins ran for the first time this spring two weeks ago at the SEC Championships in Fayetteville.
“The defending champion title is something that gives me confidence knowing that I was there last year,” Perkins said. “I think people will look at me as a solid contender. For me it is just getting a top-five finish tomorrow. It’s nice to win, but I’m just buying time and trying to get two more weeks to rest and train.”
Junior Brian Roe failed to advance to the 800-meter final after finishing fifth in his heat and 16th overall with a time of 1:52.12. Roe settled in with the leaders early in the race and made his move early in the final lap up to second place. Roe looked to be in good position among the lead pack until Jackson State’s Joel Williams made a late charge to energize the pace in the final 200 meters. The West Plains, Mo., product attempted to rally but faded down the stretch.
Junior Brad Dittoe placed fourth in his heat and 15th overall in the 400-intermediate hurdles. Dittoe’s time of 52.57 was not fast enough to qualify for Saturday’s final in the event.
Arkansas came up empty on the field event front on Friday failing to net team points or NCAA qualifications in both the pole vault and the long jump. Senior Jimmy Duke saw his Razorback career come to an end in the pole vault Friday afternoon. Duke cleared 16-1 1/4 on his final attempt and then missed three-consecutive attempts at 16-7 1/4. His clearance height was actually good enough to tie for seventh place, but Duke finished tied for 13th overall based on misses.
Freshmen Mychael Stewart and Daniel Quinn took to the runway for the Razorbacks in the long jump. Stewart recorded a jump of 23-8 to finish 22nd while Quinn placed 28th with a best of 22-8 1/2. Both Razorbacks didn’t qualify for the long jump final.
Arkansas will feature a full contingent of athletes in action on Saturday, especially in field events. Senior Eric Brown will look to defend his Mideast Regional title in the javelin. Freshman Nkosinza Balumbu will attempt to earn his first NCAA outdoor qualification in the triple jump. Junior Greg Martin will compete in both the high jump and triple jump. Mychael Stewart will look to rebound in the triple jump.
On the track, freshmen Scott MacPherson and Kenny Cormier will compete in the steeplechase. Perkins will go after his second-consecutive regional crown in the 1,500-meter run final.