DES MOINES, Iowa – Spencer McCorkel in the pole vault and Peter Kosgei in the 3,000-meter steeplechase both earned All-America honors and Nkosinza Balumbu advanced to the finals for Arkansas Razorback track and field on day three of the NCAA Championships at Drake Stadium.
“I told Peter (Kosgei) to make his move when he was feeling good,” head coach John McDonnell said. “I thought when he went, it was the right time to make the move but he couldn’t hold them off. He was running for the win and he did all that he could. We are in such a tough conference and we put everything we had into that conference meet. Peter ran three races in three days and then came back to win the regional meet. It’s hard to put all these meets together in such a short amount of time.”
Peter Kosgei, running for the win, took the lead with about 600 meters to go and set off for the finish line. He was passed by runners from Arizona State and Colorado but couldn’t go with them as they pushed the pace. Kosgei finished fifth, good for the 11th All-America honor of his career, with a time of 8:37.61.
“The pace was good,” Kosgei said. “I was running for the win and Coach (McDonnell) and I talked about when to make my move and take the lead. I felt good but I couldn’t hold them off. It was a tough race with a great field of athletes.”
Nkosinza Balumbu, the 2008 NCAA Indoor Champion, took one triple jump and called it a day. On his first attempt, he hit the automatic-advancement mark to qualify for Saturday’s finals. He jump measured 53-2.25, just over the auto mark of 53-1.75.
“It’s a relief to get the automatic mark on my first jump,” Balumbu said. “I just told myself that I’ve practiced all year for nationals and that the goal as always is to win so I wanted to come out with a clear mind and do what I knew I could do. There is a sense of urgency because we’ve had a lot of down spots in the meet so far, so if I can help pick up the load and a couple other guys can finish well hopefully we can still leave here with a trophy in Coach McDonnell’s last meet.”
“Nkosinza (Balumbu) did exactly what he needed to do,” McDonnell said. “He took one jump and got to rest. Nkosinza has been an inspiration to the team. He rallies our guys at every conference meet and he is the reason we win those meets. He is exactly what a leader should be. I’ll miss that kid a lot when I retire. He is going to go on to do better things in track and field and in life.”
Spencer McCorkel finished tied for 10th in the pole vault finals. Just out of scoring range, he cleared 16-8.75. His finish was good enough for the first All-America honor of his career. McCorkel is Arkansas’ first pole vault All-American since the 2004 season when Jeremy Scott finished tied for fourth at the outdoor championships.
“I really wanted to score points for my team,” McCorkel said. “I definitely wanted to finish higher but I’m happy with the All-America honor. I was worried about the wind on my last attempt and I probably should have changed poles. I missed a few opportunities with the run throughs but it was good to have this experience.”
His season will continue next weekend at the USA Junior Championships in Columbus, Ohio. A top two finish there will qualify him for the World Junior Championships in Poland.
Kosgei, McCorkel, Shawn Forrest (10K) and James Strang (10K) have been named All-Americans so far during the championships. Arkansas and McDonnell now boast 656 All-America honors earned by 188 student-athletes.
Arkansas’ lone Saturday competitor, Nkosinza Balumbu, will compete in the triple jump at 1 p.m. Saturday’s events will be broadcast live 3-5 p.m. CST on CBS. For complete results of the NCAA Championships, visit www.hogwired.com.