PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Senior Josphat Boit nearly completed an improbable Razorback comeback in the distance medley relay before Arkansas fell just short capturing runner-up honors in the event on Friday afternoon at the 112th edition of the Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
The Hogs’ 5,000 and 10,000-meter runner found himself in a pack with some of the most accomplished collegiate milers in the country. Despite the distance mismatch, Boit held his own and actually led the race in the final stages before anchoring the Hogs to a second-place finish.
“It was a great anchor leg from Josphat,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We just left him a little too much ground to make up. I would have liked to have seen what would’ve happened if he would have been up there with them at the handoff. He was a 5K and 10K guy out there with a bunch of milers. He put on a show. He is the real deal. He is running well as a senior and will be able to go on to the next level.”
Boit took the baton with the Hogs in sixth place and proceeded to run a 57.7 split to narrow the gap on the lead pack that included defending champion Michigan, Villanova, Texas and Georgetown. After a more deliberate lap, Boit sprinted to the lead with two laps remaining and clocked a blistering split of 56.5 seconds. The Kenyan held onto a narrow lead until defending NCAA 1,500-meter champion Leo Manzano from Texas made a break with 200 meters to go. Manzano darted to the lead and had enough to hold on to give the Longhorns their first-ever Penn Relays’ DMR win in 9:33.10. Boit’s 3:55.78 mile leg brought the Razorback squad of freshman Colin Costello, freshman Jeremy Dodson, junior Brian Roe in less than a second behind in 9:33.49.Michigan (9:36.10) finished third with Providence (9:36.56) and Dartmouth (9:37.61) rounding out the top five finishers.
“Josphat wanted to find a way to win,” McDonnell said. “He is one of our team captains and is a quiet guy. But when he wears that red and white, he has a lot of pride.”
Costello was the Hogs’ leadoff man and was forced to set the pace after the field lagged behind in the early portion of the 1,200-meter leg. Costello clocked in at 2:59.7 passing to fellow freshman Dodson with the Razorbacks sitting in sixth place. Dodson shot out of the gates and climbed the Hogs into fourth place before losing ground. The Denver, Colo., product fell to eighth at the exchange with a time of 48.7 in the 400-meter lap.
Roe vaulted the Razorbacks’ back into sixth by the end of the first lap of the 800-meter leg. The West Plains, Mo, native ran a 1:49.3 split and inched Arkansas into fifth before handing the baton over to Boit for the anchor.
Arkansas has won a Penn Relays record 15 distance medley crowns in its 23-year tenure at the meet. Despite missing out on a 16th wagon wheel trophy, McDonnell was encouraged by his squad’s DMR performance especially considering two of the Razorbacks’ relay participants are freshmen.
“We obviously wanted to win, but I’m happy with what we did in a tough place with a couple of freshmen. Colin ran a good leg for a freshman. It wasn’t really in the plan, but he took the lead. He said no one else wanted to take it. Jeremy came out too fast and ran out of steam. This is a great experience for those guys. They will know what to expect next time around.”
Earlier in the day, freshman J-Mee Samuels secured a spot in Saturday’s 100-meter dash final with a time of 10.63. The North Carolina prep star finished second in his heat and improved his season-best in the event shaving his previous best time (10.64) set last weekend at the TCU Invitational.
Seniors David Wittenmyer and Brad Dittoe were the first Razorbacks on the track on Friday. Wittenmyer and Dittoe finished third and fourth, respectively, in the same heat of the 400-meter hurdles early Friday morning. Wittenmyer posted a season-best time of 52.53 finishing 20th overall in the event. He missed the regional qualifying standard by two-hundredth of a second. Dittoe was close behind placing 21st overall with a time of 52.53.
Arkansas had a light schedule on Friday in the field events as well. Freshman Mychael Stewart advanced the finals of the long jump and finished third with a best of 23-4. Freshman Daniel Quinn finished 10th overall with a leap of 22-0 1/4.
Senior Tony Ugoh competed in the discus finishing off the pace in 13th with a throw of 153-1. Freshman Brent Rosson competed in the collegiate high jump, but did not make a clearance.
Arkansas will return to action on Saturday in the final day of the Penn Relays. The Razorbacks have a number of entries that could make a run at event championships. Senior Eric Brown will go for his fourth-consecutive collegiate win of the season in the javelin. Brown is ranked No. 1 in the nation and is coming off a school-record throw of 256-3 at the Kansas Relays last weekend. Freshman Nkosinza Balumbu will take to the runway in the triple jump. The 2006 SEC Indoor triple jump runner-up is ranked second nationally in the event this week.
On the track, the Razorbacks will make two more runs at securing a coveted wagon wheel. The Hogs will compete in both the 4×800 and 4xmile relays. Arkansas will be seeking its 42nd relay championship since 1982. Last year was the first time that the Razorbacks didn’t secure at least one relay championship at the Penn Relays. Arkansas will attempt to make certain it isn’t two years in a row with a win on Saturday.