PHILADELPHIA – Arkansas senior Josphat Boit sped by Iona’s Richard Kiplagat on the final turn and never looked back on his way to leading the Razorbacks to the 4xMile relay title in front of 49,771 fans on Saturday at the 112th running of the Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
Boit anchored Arkansas to a Penn Relays’ record 19th 4xMile championship including its fourth in the last five years. Freshman Colin Costello, senior Seth Summerside, senior Marc Rodrigues and Boit posted a time of 16:14.92, the eighth-fastest time in the meet’s history. The Razorbacks out-kicked Iona (16:15.40) and defending champion Michigan (16:16.03) to take the tape.
“It feels really good,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “These guys did a great job. To win this race with a freshman out front and three 5K and 10K guys behind is really something. I wasn’t sure how the pace would go. You have to give credit to all the teams. They came out to run today. It was a very entertaining race. There were three teams (still in it) with 200 meters to go. It has been a long time since I have seen that in the 4xMile.”
The victory ended the Razorbacks’ wagon wheel “drought” of one season. The Hogs failed to win a relay championship last season for the only time since 1983. Arkansas has won at least one relay title in 22 of 23 appearances at the Penn Relays. The Razorbacks now own a total of 42 of the meet’s signature relay trophies.
“We were disappointed last year not coming back with a wheel,” McDonnell said. “It was good to get back to the awards stand. We have had tremendous success at the Penn Relays. As far as I’m concerned, it is the best meet in America or anywhere.”
Boit posted his second-consecutive sub-four minute mile in as many days with a 3:59.4 split on the anchor leg. On Friday, Boit posted a 3:55.4 split on the anchor leg of the distance medley relay.
In Saturday’s anchor effort, Boit tucked in behind Kiplagat in second place for nearly the entire mile before sprinting past the Iona star in the final 100 meters. It was the third time in the last calendar year that Boit has out-dueled Kiplagat down the stretch. Boit won the 5K over Kiplagat at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships and then again in the same event at the Mt. SAC Relays last month.
“I knew with 200 (meters) to go that I had him,” Boit said. “I was confident with my kick. I out-kicked this guy before. I knew I would beat him again. It was the perfect race for me.”
Costello opened the Razorbacks’ relay with a mile split of 4:08.0. The freshman from Ireland took the lead on the third lap, but was passed by Iona’s Stephen Chemlany with 200 meters remaining in the opening leg. Costello kept the Hogs close and made the exchange with the Razorbacks in fourth place. The young Razorback star was running his second leadoff leg of the Penn Relays after opening Arkansas’ distance medley relay squad on Friday.
“I was a lot more relaxed out there today,” Costello said. “It was good to get a run in yesterday. We had a game plan and it paid off.”
Summerside held steady keeping the Razorbacks in fourth until moving the Hogs into second place on the second lap of his leg. The Joplin, Mo., product slipped to third and then to fifth on the backstretch before handing the baton to Rodrigues after a 4:03.2 split.
Rodrigues quickly re-joined the lead pack and moved up to second at the start of the final lap of the third leg. In the final 400 meters, the South African took the lead briefly on the backstretch before Iona’s Sean Connolly regained the pace at the exchange. Rodrigues clocked in his mile at 4:04.3 before giving way to Boit.
Boit then brought the Razorbacks home to the victory reclaiming the title that Arkansas has made its own 19 out of the last 23 times on the track.
“There is always a lot of pressure when you run for Arkansas,” Summerside said. “At the same time, it is such a privilege to run for the University of Arkansas. It is a great situation.”
Arkansas’ bid at a second wagon wheel was derailed literally out of the gate in the 4×800 relay. Freshman Daniel LaCava, the Hogs’ leadoff man, dropped the baton in the first 15 meters of the race after having the implement knocked loose by another runner. By the time LaCava backtracked and recovered the baton, the field and Arkansas’ chances for a second relay title had passed by. Senior Marc Rodrigues, senior David Wittenmyer and junior Brian Roe finished the race well behind the pack in 13th place in a time of 7:45.11.
Razorback freshman J-Mee Samuels was the lone UA individual entry on the track on Saturday. Samuels ran a season-best time of 10.58 to earn fifth place in the college 100-meter dash final. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native bested his time of 10.63 run in the preliminary round on Friday.
Arkansas earned a trio of third-place finishes in field events on Saturday. Junior Greg Martin matched a season-best and tied for third in the collegiate high jump championship. Martin cleared 6-10 3/4 on his first attempt and then passed to a height of 7-0. He missed all three attempts at 7-0 and finished in a two-way tie for third place with Georgia Tech’s Jerome Miller.
Freshman Nkosinza Balumbu earned his third-place finish in the triple jump championship. Balumbu, the No. 2 ranked triple jumper in the nation, measured 51-2 3/4 with his first jump of the afternoon.
Senior Eric Brown had a rare off day in the javelin thanks in part to windy conditions. Brown, the defending Penn Relays’ champion, finished third in the 2006 event championship with a throw of 235-1. Brown will now turn his focus on winning the first SEC javelin title in school history in two weeks in Fayetteville.
“Overall it was a pretty good weekend,” McDonnell said. “It was nice to get a win today in the 4xMile. It was disappointing that we dropped the baton in the 4×800 and didn’t give some guys a chance to run. We have two weeks to get ready for the SEC Championships. We have a long way to go. We have to get better mentally. We don’t have the attitude it takes to win right now. We have to get better in a hurry. The league meet will be a tough battle.”
Arkansas will take next weekend off before hosting the 2006 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships the following week in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks will christen the new John McDonnell Field with the league meet in search of conference championship No. 79. The four-day meet is set for May 11-14. Tickets are available for the SEC Championships by logging onto www.hogwired.com or by calling the UA Ticket office at 1-800-982-HOGS.