Powered by points from six scorers in five events, the Bulldog men’s track and field team took fourth overall to highlight the third of four days at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas, on Friday. Georgia captured the 2018 outdoor team title and responded this year with their second straight invitation to the facility’s infield for a team trophy, which is reserved for the nation’s top-four squads. The Bulldogs scored 32.5 points, which is their second-best total in history, to finish behind Texas Tech (60), Florida (60) and Houston (40) after coming into the meet ranked 13th in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll.
The women’s portion of the meet will conclude on Saturday.
“This was a tremendous day for our men’s day and I am really proud of these guys,” said head coach Petros Kyprianou. “We can in ranked No. 13 and we finished fourth with a trophy. This was our 10th trophy overall for our program over the last four years. It truly was a great day to be a Georgia Bulldog. Four men showed up and scored 32.5 points, led by Denzel Comenentia scoring overall 16 points over three events, which is very rare. Our high jumpers put out a great showing, scoring points that we had to have to stay in fourth.
“On our women’s side, Sterling (Lester) put up a massive score on day one in the heptathlon and I am looking forward to her pulling out another surprise on Saturday. She has put herself in position to do something big for her team tomorrow.”
The Bulldogs had a pair of scorers in the men’s high jump for the second straight year. Senior Keenon Laine closed out his career as an expected four-time First Team All-American (the last three with Georgia and first in 2016 with Western Kentucky) after matching his season best at 7 feet, 4 ¼ inches to take fourth in the high jump. Junior Darius Carbin, who advanced to the outdoor meet for the first time in his career, equaled his career best at 7-3 to tie for seventh and add a pivotal 1.5 points.
The crowning finale for the Georgia men came from an appropriate performer: senior Denzel Comenentia. Notching his record third expected First Team All-America certificate of the meet, Comenentia sent his sixth and final attempt in the discus a personal record 196-9 to bump from sixth to fifth place. This not only bettered his No. 2 all-time mark with the best effort in 23 years for the Bulldogs, but also locked down the Bulldogs spot on the podium as a top-four squad for the second straight year.
For the women on Friday, true freshman Sterling Lester matched one personal best and created another three fresh ones to slide into the fourth spot in the heptathlon standings with a day one personal-best score of 3,601 points. Lester punched her ticket to Nationals by scoring the 22nd-best total out of the 24 qualifiers invited.
On Thursday, sophomore Johannes Erm not only won his first national decathlon crown, but also hit the Olympic standard score. For the women, sophomore Aliyah Whisby complemented her scoring showing in the pentathlon at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships with an eighth-place finish in the outdoor long jump to tally the Lady Bulldogs first point of the meet.
Comenentia was the runner-up in the shot put and was fifth in the hammer throw to give the Bulldog men 12 points on Wednesday at Myers Stadium.
Three Georgia women compete in three individual events and Lester is slated to complete her final three events in the heptathlon on Saturday. Lester begins the long jump at 2:30 p.m. ET and freshman Sakari Famous is scheduled to begin the individual events for UGA in the high jump at 6 p.m.
In the high jump, Laine followed the plan of first-attempt clearances to get through 7-3 without any misses. He cleared 6-10.75, 7-0.50, 7-1.75 and 7-3 before making it over at 7-4.25 on his third and final try. Laine’s efficient jumping kept him above Southern Miss’ Eric Richards for the extra point in the event.
Laine’s training partner, Darius Carbin, made his debut at the meet and also stayed clean through the first two heights. After making it over at 7-1.75 on his second try, Carbin matched his personal record of 7-3 from 2018 on his last try to clinch the scoring spot and split seventh.
Qualifying for three events for the first time in his career after scoring in both the hammer and shot in 2017-19, Comenentia may have scored the biggest points of his career in the discus on Friday night. The Amsterdam native set the tone by opening with a toss of 191-3 and then improved to 192-0 in round three. However, he saved his longest discus throw of his career at 196-9 to jump past the fifth-place competitor (195-4) with the best mark for a Bulldog since Alex Urlando set the school record of 201-5 at the 1996 SEC Championships.
Lester began her heptathlon day with a personal record in the 100m hurdles to finish second in the event. Running as fast as a 13.39 during the SEC heptathlon, Lester improved to 13.23 on Friday for 1,090 points and was trailing the leader by 39 points. This bettered her No. 6 time in school history.
In the high jump, Lester equaled her personal best of 5-5.25 on her third and final try for 806 points. She went over the bar at her first three heights on her second attempt and put herself in seventh place after two of seven events, trailing the leader by 223. Lester had previously reached 5-5.25 at the Bulldog Heptathlon in Athens earlier this season.
Lester’s third consecutive personal record of the day came in the shot put with a series that featured the three top throws of her brief career. Opening with a toss of 38-6.75, the Marietta, Ga., native followed with a monstrous improvement of 40-2.25 on her second attempt. This scored Lester 678 points and put her in eighth place by 304 points.
A student-athlete who could still be at Marietta High School had she not graduated and enrolled at UGA early, Lester finished her day by winning the 200m with yet another personal best. She blazed to a 23.52, missing out on the school’s all-time top-10 list by .02, to score another 1,027 points. Lester is the only freshman in position to score in the top eight with three events remaining.