FAYETTEVILLE – For John McDonnell’s Razorback track teams, the unusual bad day usually is followed by good one.These 2006 indoor Razorbacks fit the McDonnell norm in Saturday’s conclusion of the 2-day Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center.“Things picked up, thank goodness!” McDonnell said as a good afternoon followed a gloomy night. “We had a pretty good meet today in the mile, 3,000, 800, 60 and triple jump and heptathlon.”Arkansas veterans Jimmy Duke, 4,495 points in the heptathlon, Peter Kosgei and Josphat Boit, 4:02.03 and 4:02.37 in the mile, freshman J-Mee Samuels, 6.71, 60-meter dash, and freshman Nkosinza Balumba, 52-2 3/4, triple jump, all posted performances Saturday provisionally qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships Arkansas hosts March 10-11 at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track.Senior Said Ahmed in the 800 and freshman Kenny Cormier didn’t provisionally punch NCAA meet tickets Saturday but pleased McDonnell nonetheless.Ahmed, counted upon by McDonnell to be Arkansas’ ace NCAA Indoor meet ace in the mile and anchoring the mile relay, has been ill and stepped down to the 800 for his 2006 debut. He ran a brisk 1:49.82 behind Oral Roberts University standouts Prince Mumba, an All-American halfmiler clocking 1:48.96, and Shaun Smith, 1:49.71.
“Those guys that beat him,” McDonnell said, “Prince and Shaun Smith, were really good. So I was really pleased with Said. For the first race since he’s been sick, 1:49.82 that’s a good time. He can run a lot faster than that but he’s behind in his training and he didn’t give in.”Ahmed’s home is Boston and that’s where the Razorbacks run next week at the Boston Indoor Games in the Boston Garden.
“You always want to find out where you are at,” Ahmed said. “From here on, I know what to do. I’m coming to home to Boston next week and I’m excited.”Kosgei and Boit, past All-Americans in the 3,000 and 5,000 and NCAA provisional 3,000 qualifiers last week here, won’t run the mile at the NCAA Indoor meet. But they got a good speed workout Saturday running second and third as former Razorback Alistair Cragg thrilled the crowd with a 3:55.04 mile rabbitted by former Razorback Daniel Lincoln. Arkansas freshman miler Chris Barnicle debuted with a brisk 4:06.90.“That was just what we needed,” McDonnell said. “The pace was really too fast for them but they hung in good. That will help their 3,000 and 5,000. And it was a good run for the freshman, Barnicle. Boy, does Alistair look ready! He could have gone faster.”Cragg was amazed to run this fast this early.“I didn’t think I’d run that good,” Cragg said. “I was just thinking about staying with Daniel. He’s the perfect guy to run behind. He does the work and I get the gratitude. I hurt pacing him last week to a 4-minute mile. An extra week’s training is huge this time of year.”
Lincoln, an alum of the Arkansas School of Mathematics and Science in Hot Springs and a first-year med student at the UA Med school in Little Rock, and Cragg both will race, not pace, in the 3,000 at Boston. Lincoln guns for the American record. Cragg, now running for Ireland, aims for the European record in the indoor 3,000.National high school champions Samuels and Balumba found those automatic prep victories aren’t so automatic in college.Baylor freshman Jacob Norman and Trell Kimmons of Hinds Community College were 1-2 in the 60-meter dash in 6.63 and 6.66 with Samuels third.Balumba beat all of Saturday’s triple jump collegians but was second overall to former collegiate great Leevan Sands, 55-7 1-2 for Auburn Elite.Balumba doesn’t have to worry about Sands in the SEC and NCAA, the meets that count for him.“What I like about him,” McDonnell said, “is he’s consistent. That kid is only going to get better.”Samuels must shed weight gained over the holidays.“He’s still a little heavy,” Razorback sprints coach Lance Brauman said, “but consider his personal best is 6.70 and he runs 6.71 and hits the provisional mark his first collegiate meet. He’ll get an automatic these next few weeks.”Cormier “also is shedding several layers of Christmas turkey,” but McDonnell said the freshman fought through it to win the 3,000 in 8:13.92.Senior walkon Duke had the day’s most inspirational performance, logging his first provisional qualifier in four years. He completed the 7-events in two days with a 1,000-yard run after pole vaulting a personal best 16-8 3/4 and trying three times to clear 17-0.“I’m satisfied,” Duke said, “but I’m not done yet. I PR’d in 5 out of 7 events. And even the ones I PR’d, I know I can do better.”Field events coach Dick Booth marveled how far Duke has come.“The 1,000 at the end of anything is rough,” Booth said, “but when you’ve vaulted longer than you are used to, that really makes it tough. That was a gutty effort. No question he gave it all he had.”