That put him in a bit of a conflicted position late Wednesday night near the end of the first heat of the 5,000 meter prelims.
As he watched intently to see if junior Josphat Boit could hold on to the sixth and last automatic berth to the Saturday final, McDonnell saw his walk-on sophomore Seth Summerside closing on Boit fast.
"I knew (Boit) was all right and then I saw Seth coming up like crazy," McDonnell said. "I said, 'Oh gosh, that's not good.'"
McDonnell knows Arkansas' best chance to score big in the final is with Boit, who has a career best of 13:17.12, and not Summerside, who set his personal best of 14:00.83 two weeks ago at the Mideast Regional.
Had Summerside ran in the second heat, he could have made it as the 10th-place finisher was Stephen Samoei of UTEP in 14:02.07.
"Poor Summerside," said McDonnell, who expects a serious jump from his big-hearted sophomore next year. "If he'd been in the other heat, he'd have made it. That's how it goes."
The super slow pace of the first heat ensured that no time qualifiers would come from it, and the desperation kicks to the finish nearly ate up Boit, who was trying to conserve energy for the 10,000 meters Thursday night.
Boit was holding on to second place with about 1,000 meters to go when the pace shifted up.
By the time it was over, the first seven finishers all crossed the line within a second of each other with Summerside the first one left out at 14:21.83 in seventh. Boit was sixth at 14:21.71.
"It's a dangerous situation Josphat was in," McDonnell said. "He wanted to conserve energy and he ended up having to kick like hell to get that sixth spot."
Summerside, who made up nearly 15 meters in the final lap trying to make the final, had his breakout meet last month at the SEC Championships in Nashville when he took seventh in the 1,500 and a surprise second in the 5K.
"I'm obviously disappointed," said the Joplin, Mo., native. "I just have to look at my season and realize it was a successful season. It's disappointing that I was that close.
"I'm happy for (Boit) he got in. It's probably better for the team at this point. I'll do what I always do. I'll write down the names of everyone here and see them next year."
Boit was happy he could conserve some energy and practice his finishing kick. He also said he thought about allowing Summerside to pass him to get into the finals, but he realized the slow pace would knock him out if he did.
"I wish he could have made it," Boit said. "I didn't want to risk it. I knew if I risked it, I wouldn't make the finals. But you know, he's come a long way. He should appreciate that."
OTHER LATE NIGHT ACTION
In the other late race Wednesday night, sophomore Peter Kosgei turned in a personal best and the fourth-fastest time in school history to win his heat in 8:32.97. His previous best was 8:35.40 posted April 23 in Fayetteville.
Kosgei's Wednesday time trails only three-time NCAA steeple champion Daniel Lincoln (8:22.34), two-time Southeastern Conference champion Godfrey Siamusiye (8:25.49) and 1998 NCAA steeple champion Matt Kerr (8:32.05).
Junior Jose Campos recorded his third consecutive personal best and finished 10th in his heat in 8:46.82 but missed out on the finals.
TWO-SPORT STARS SHINE
The last time the NCAA Outdoor Championships were in Sacramento, former Razorback cornerback/sprinter Ahmad Carroll was the only athlete to earn All-American honors in both the 100 and 200.
Several two-sport stars are making an impact this year as well.
The biggest is likely to be LSU freshman Xavier Carter, who won the Southeastern Conference and Mideast Regional titles in the 200, including a 20.02 at the regional that ranks just behind Arkansas sophomore Wallace Spearmon's world-leading 19.97.
Carter also plays receiver and kick returner for the Tigers. He had 5 catches for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns before breaking his clavicle against Vanderbilt on Oct. 30.
He also averaged 20.3 yards on 10 kickoff returns, including a 42-yarder against Arkansas State.
There's also Kevin Bookout of Oklahoma, who is a 6-foot-8, 260-pound power forward for the Sooner basketball team. He missed last track season recovering from shoulder surgery.
Bookout threw the shot 71-1 in high school and though he was ranked 25th out of 27 entering the Championships, he is sixth heading into the finals with a best toss of 60-1.
And Arkansas has another dual-sporter in Michael Grant, who had 29 tackles from his cornerback position as a freshman for the Razorbacks last fall.
Grant runs the leadoff leg on the 4x100-meter relay that broke the 20-year-old school record in the event at the Mideast Regional in 38.75.
LADY'BACK COACHING TREE SPREADS
Former Lady'Backs sprint assistant coach Chris Johnson was at the meet Thursday, now as the sprints and jumps coach at Penn State.
Johnson is engaged to former Lady'Back All-American heptathlete GiGi Miller, who is a volunteer assistant at Penn State.
Johnson's brother, Lawrence, preceded him in the same position assisting Lady'Backs sprints coach Lonnie Greene and after spending last season at Southern Illinois and is now at Virginia Tech.
Lady'Back head coach Lance Harter's former right hand Mike Harrison also moved on and is now an assistant coach at Maryland.
Boit, Kosgei Make Finals Late Wednesday
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