Boit Looking Unbeatable

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Arkansas distance specialist Marc Rodrigues thought Friday's 5,000-meter finals at the NCAA Mideast Regional would be an easy pace, a smooth trip for 13 loops around Tom Black Track. But with three of the top 5,000 runners in the country entered into the event, the pace was in no way tame.

Arkansas senior Josphat Boit, who ran with the lead pack throughout the race, surged past South Alabama's Tonny Okello and Wisconsin's Chris Solinsky to claim Arkansas' first-ever regional 5,000 title.

His time of 14 minutes, .73 seconds was less than a second better than Okello's (14:01.15) and indicated the race was a tactical one from start to finish.

Boit is now undefeated in three attempts at the 5,000 meters and goes into the NCAA Outdoor Championships brimming with confidence.

"Psychologically, I wanted to win," Boit said. "I didn't want to save something for nationals. I run every race like it is my last race."

Solinsky entered Friday's 5,000 with the best time in the country, but did not have the kick to beat Boit.

"Boit doesn't want anybody to beat him," said Arkansas coach John McDonnell. "No collegiate guy has beaten him outdoors this year in the 5,000.

"He wants to keep it that way."

Rodrigues, who finished second in the 5,000 at the Southeastern Conference meet two weeks ago, was fifth, which automatically qualified the South African for nationals. Seth Summerside placed sixth, missing the automatic qualifier by one position.

But for Rodrigues, it will be his first NCAA Outdoor nationals. And Friday night's field and grueling, tactical race should be a good barometer for what is to come in Sacramento, Calif., in two weeks.

"I thought everyone would cruise through and kick for place," Rodrigues said. "It was totally opposite.

"Now I have to do some hard work over the next two weeks and get into nationals. I'm excited."

Also for Arkansas, sophomore Shawn Forrest placed 12th, but may have a good enough time from earlier in the season (13:59.05) to place him in nationals.

In all, Arkansas scored 17 points in the 5,000, putting the Razorbacks in third place, behind Louisville (25) and Akron (18). Missouri is currently fourth with 13 points and Kent State fifth with 12.

But all that will change with running finals today, especially the sprints where LSU holds nine entries in finals, including top sprinters Xaiver Carter and Kelly Willie.

Arkansas has one finalist in today's events. Adam Perkins, who has recently recovered from an Achilles' tendon injury, will attempt to defend his 1,500 regional title. He qualified with a time of 3:49.69.

Other than that, Arkansas had a quiet day with no national qualifiers or point scorers in any other events. Mychael Stewart placed 22nd in the long jump, ahead of teammate Daniel Quinn, who was 31st.

Jimmy Duke failed to score in the pole vault, clearing 16-1 1/4.

Brad Dittoe placed fourth in his heat of the 400 hurdles, but did not advance to the finals, nor did Brian Roe in the 800.

Today, Arkansas will look to turn its fortunes around with a few individuals with good opportunities to win.

Senior javelin thrower Eric Brown is coming off his first SEC title two weeks ago, as is freshman Nkosinza Balumbu in the triple jump. Both are favorites to finish in the top five and qualify for nationals in Sacramento.

Balumbu is a California native.

Greg Martin will tackle the high jump and the triple jump.

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