Kosgei Qualifies for Steeplechase Finals on Day One of NCAA Championships

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Arkansas track and field has completed day one of competition at the NCAA Championships, at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.

Peter Kosgei advanced to Friday’s finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 8:41.32, good for a fourth-place finish in his heat.

Entering the event with the seventh-fastest time (8:39.94), Kosgei rattled among the top three throughout the race. Coming down the home stretch, Kosgei managed his fourth-place finish, after passing Todd Ptacek of Notre Dame, and earned an automatic spot in the finals.

“J-Mee (Samuels) was so close to making the 100-meter finals so it was good to see Peter (Kosgei) have a good race in the steeplechase,” head coach John McDonnell said. “Getting Peter and James (Strang) in the finals and doing well is what we are going for now. J-Mee had a tough day. Three races in one day in rough.”

J-Mee Samuels, running both the 4×100-meter relay and the 100 meters on Wednesday, clocked a 10.25 in the 100-meter prelims. Finishing fifth, he missed an automatic advancement to the semifinals by one spot but his time was quick enough to earn the second-fastest non-automatic qualifying spot.

In the semifinals, held two hours after the prelims, Samuels clocked a 10.28 and was two spots short of advancing to the finals. However, he was top eight among American athletes and will earn All-America honors.

“We were all side-by-side the whole race,” Samuels said. “I don’t think I could have done any better in that race. I did my best and I’ll try to learn from my mistakes. That’s what is most important.”

A spot in the 4×100-meter finals was Arkansas’ for the taking but poor hand-offs led Cedric Zellner, Mychael Stewart, Clemore Henry and Samuels across the line in 40.15. The Mideast Regional runners-up, the group could have secured its place in the final with a time of 40.12 or better. Charging strongly on the final leg, Samuels crossed the line in a time of 40.15. Clemson’s time of 40.04 was the final time accepted into Friday’s final.

“Our hand-offs were off and that’s what hurt our time,” Samuels said. “We’ll learn a lot from that race.”

“We missed a chance of a lifetime,” assistant coach Kyle White said of not making the 4×100-meter finals. “They all ran well. The hand-offs hurt us. J-Mee (Samuels) tried to catch up a lot of ground and he may have paid for it in the semis of the 100 meters. J-Mee got the start he needed (in the 100 meters) and he ran well.”

James Strang was the final competitor of the day in the 5,000 meters. He finished seventh in heat, one spot out of an automatic advancement to the finals, with a time of 14:31.97. In the hunt for a top-six finish down the home stretch, Strang had to jump over Fleet Hower of Georgetown who fell 10 yards from the finish line.

The Razorbacks will continue competition on Friday, June 8, with Nkosinza Balumbu in the triple jump prelims at 1:45 p.m. Balumbu is featured on the NCAA’s national blog, the Double A Zone, to preview this week’s NCAA Championships. Visit http://www.doubleazone.com/2007/06/ncaa_tournament_features_home_2.html to read more.

For complete results, schedule and details of the NCAA Championships, visit www.hornetsports.com.