FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Peter Kosgei and J-Mee Samuels led a battling group of Arkansas Razorback track and field athletes on the final day of competition at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships and head coach John McDonnell’s final meet in Fayetteville.
Arkansas ended the weekend advancing nine athletes in eight events to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa in June. Arkansas earned a bronze finish in the team race with 69 points after taking three event titles this weekend. LSU won the team title with 88 points.
“We had a really good meet and today was a great second day,” McDonnell said. “We had a lot of key events today. The steeplechase was great, and of course Nkosinza in the triple jump. J-Mee had an outstanding day. He’s showing great speed and toughness during his races. J-Mee’s was an iron-man performance. He’s the real deal. He didn’t have a great day, but I think Spencer (McCorkel) will get in. I’m really pleased with my last home meet in Fayetteville. The kids did a great job.”
Kosgei ended a superb day of competition with a win in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The NCAA Mideast Champion in the same event in 2005, Kosgei took the lead with less than a lap to go and held on to take the tape. He clocked a time of 8:33.42.
“I’m really happy to come in here and get this win,” Kosgei said. “It was a tough race but I felt good and I’m happy to see Scott (MacPherson) and myself advance. Now it’s time to get ready for Nationals.”
Scott MacPherson stuck with Kosgei for most of the steeplechase race. He earned a bronze finish in the event and clocked a time of 8:52.14. He also automatically advanced to the NCAA Championships, his first opportunity to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Samuels had a stellar day to match his prelim performances from Friday. He automatically advanced to the NCAA Championships in the 100 and 200 meters and came from fifth place in the 4×100-meter relay to also a earn a bronze finish in the event. Additionally, he also clocked personal bests in his individual races.
“Coming into today, I was really sore,” Samuels said. “I went out pretty hard (Friday) and I knew I had three events today to compete in. I always look at the relay as a warm-up to the 4x100M. I was feeling better as the day went on. By the time we got to the 200 meters, I was tired, but I’m still happy with my times.”
Samuels, with teammates Cedric Zellner, Alain Bailey and Mychael Stewart, started the day with the 4×100-meter relay. A shaky second exchange put the Hogs in fifth or sixth place until Samuels kicked it in gear and ran down two or three other anchor legs to cross the line in third place. The quartet clocked a time of 39.70 and will compete at the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season.
Next up in the 100 meters, Samuels clocked the second-fastest time in school history, 10.08, to earn a bronze finish. The time is also the fastest legal-wind clocking he has recorded since his heralded high school career.
In his final event of the day, the 200 meters, Samuels did it once again. Another bronze finish was recorded after he clocked a time of 20.32. His time is the fifth fastest in school history and the fastest he has run since high school.
“At first I was worried about (J-Mee Samuels) because the way the schedule is set up, it’s a lot of races,” Arkansas sprints coach Kyle White said. “He thrives in this position. He’s done it before; he did it last year at the USA championships. We knew he had the strength to do it. We weren’t expecting the heat and he only had 30 minutes after the 4x100M to warm up for the 100 meters. He has prepared a lot for this. We’ve been working on a lot of 300s in practice to get him ready for a day like this.”
Nkosinza Balumbu also recorded an event win in the triple jump. In similar fashion to his SEC Championships performance two weeks, Balumbu took two jumps, approved of his marks and called it quits. Hitting 54 feet on both attempts, his best jump of the day measured 54-1.75, an outdoor personal best. An NCAA Champion, four-time All-American and a five-time SEC Champion, Balumbu just now cracked UA’s top 10 triple jump list. His mark on Saturday ranks ninth all time.
“Getting 54 feet on my first jump was a great way to start and great for my confidence,” Balumbu said. “This means a lot to me going into nationals. I passed my last four jumps after I hit 54 feet so I could rest my body. I’m still trying to get to 100 percent before nationals.”
Alex McClary also solidified his spot in the national meet. Competing in the 800 meters, he earned another bronze finish for the Razorbacks. He clocked a time of 1:48.49.
Andy McClary had high hopes in the 1,500 meters but was disqualified after getting tangled up with another runner just before the finish line.
“I just wanted to get to nationals,” Alex said. “I didn’t really care how it happened. I just needed to finish in the top five. I really wanted to put myself in a position to qualify. I didn’t watch Andy’s race. Unfortunately things did not work out for him, but they did for me.”
The list of accepted entries for the NCAA Championships will be announced Tuesday, June 2. For complete results of the NCAA Mideast Championships and details about Razorback track and field, visit www.hogwired.com.
Razorback Weekend Recap
J-Mee Samuels, 100 meters, 3rd; 200 meters, 3rd
Alex McClary, 800 meters, 3rd
Peter Kosgei, 3,000M Steeplechase, 1st
Scott MacPherson, 3,000M Steeplechase, 3rd
Zellner, Bailey, Stewart, Samuels, 4x100M, 3rd
Alain Bailey, Long Jump, 2nd
Nkosinza Balumbu, Triple Jump, 1st
Luke Laird, Javelin, 5th
Potential At-Large Bids
James Strang, 5,000 meters, 6th
Tyler Hill, 5,000 meters, 9th
Mychael Stewart, Long Jump, 8th
Daniel Quinn, Long Jump, 10th
Spencer McCorkel, Pole Vault, 11th
Daniel Quinn, Triple Jump, 6th