The Georgia track and field teams concluded competition at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday with the women finishing in fourth place and the men in fifth.
The seventh-ranked Lady Bulldogs scored 77 points (their most since 2013) to finish fourth behind Arkansas (127), LSU (100) and Kentucky (80). The fourth-ranked Georgia men completed the meet with 75 points (their most since 2014) for fifth while Texas A&M (119), Arkansas (106), Alabama (103) and Florida (81.5) occupied the first through fourth spots.
“To add four more champions today in a conference like the SEC was outstanding,” said Georgia head coach Petros Kyprianou. “All of them stepped it up, like we have been training them to do for the championship portion of the season. One of the true highlights was Devon (Williams) again setting the school record in the hurdles to win a title with the fastest time in the nation. Having scorers in the 100m, 200m and 800m is also a rarity for a school like us who has most of our scoring concentration on the field events and I was proud of how that group stepped up. This is just the first leg on our postseason journey and now we have to concentrate on getting everyone healthy and in the shape they need to be for Prelims in two weeks. Overall I thought our teams did a great job at SECs and made us proud for yet another meet to be a Bulldog.”
The Lady Bulldogs won their 13th SEC outdoor high jump title as junior Tatiana Gusin captured her first crown. Gusin, who was second to Mady Fagan at both the 2017 SEC and NCAA indoor meets, gave Georgia two consecutive conference outdoor titles and the last three combined with Fagan’s victory in February.
Junior Keturah Orji pushed her SEC win streak in the triple jump to six after reaching a distance of at least 44 feet, 10 ¼ inches on her four legal attempts, which all would have won the competition.
In the men’s shot put, sophomore Denzel Comenentia delivered Georgia its seventh SEC outdoor title in the event in history. The Bulldogs have now won the SEC indoor and outdoor men’s shot put championships the last two years after Comenentia opened with a mark of 65-7.50 and never looked back. The Amsterdam scored a team-high 20 points after also finishing first in the hammer on Friday.
The Bulldogs’ fourth SEC title of the day and seventh of the meet came from the nation’s second-ranked decathlete, senior Devon Williams. Williams matched the national lead of 13.37 and leaned past Florida’s Grant Holloway for the victory in the 110-meter hurdles, which is the first outdoor short hurdles title for Georgia since Spec Towns in 1937.
It was also Williams who topped Towns’ school record (shared with Billy Richard) of 13.7 in the prelims with a 13.52. Then on Saturday, Williams left his own record behind with a 13.37 after already scoring a point in the long jump at SECs.
CLICK HERE for the full results from the 2017 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
On Thursday, Georgia tallied its first two SEC individual titles with Comenentia and freshman Beatrice Llano sweeping the hammer throw for the first time since Alex Poursanidis and Elizabeth Tepe accomplished the feat in 2014. Sophomore Keenon Laine secured Georgia its third conference crown and his first SEC title with a career-best high jump clearance of 7-4.50 on Friday.
Gusin had already taken second at two SEC Championships in her career and ended that drought by taking over the No. 4 spot on the school’s all-time top-10 list with a clearance of 6-2. The Orhei, Moldova, native was pushed to her third try at 6-0.50 and then went over the bar at 6-2 on her second attempt to edge Fagan for the win.
Fagan, who won the 2016 outdoor title and the 2017 SEC and NCAA indoor championships, reached 6-0.50 on her second attempt. It took her three tries at 6-2 to clear, which matched Gusin in the UGA record books and bumped her to third in the overall meet standings.
In addition, senior Kendell Williams, a scorer already in the long jump, cleared 5-10.75 in the high jump before having to pass on the rest of her jumps to prepare for the hurdles. Williams finished fifth in her second jumps event of the meet.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to win the title here,” said Gusin. “I am surprised and amazed that it happened for me. Mady and I came here trying to finish 1-2 like we did at indoors and it worked out just right. We did exactly what we came here to do and I am excited that I have won my first championship for this team.”
Orji started her triple jump series with a foul and then quickly set the tone with an effort of 45-5.25 on her second try. The Mount Olive, N.J., native bettered her mark to 45-9.25 and won by a foot and three inches after already taking fifth in the long jump on Friday. Only Florida’s Ciarra Brewer (2012-14) and Shara Proctor (2008-10) have won three consecutive outdoor triple jump titles in SEC history.
A year after taking sixth in the triple jump at the SEC meet, sophomore Aliyah Johnson finished sixth again with an effort of 42-7.50. This came on Johnson’s sixth and final attempt as it passed Mississippi State’s Tiffany Flynn (42-6.75).
“I am happy to win another title for my team and for myself in the triple,” said Orji. “I am not happy with the marks that came out of the competition but I know I have time to improve and get on track before we go to the NCAA meet.”
Comenentia shot to the top of the leaderboard after his first throw of 65-7.50 and he provided four other shot put marks of at least 63-10.25 during his victory. He finished his six throws with his second 65-foot toss, a 65-4 effort. Comenentia’s two titles in a single SEC outdoor meet was the first for a Bulldog male since Lester Benjamin won both the long and triple jumps in 1984.
“Winning this title gives me a special feeling since this is my favorite event,” said Comenentia. “It was a tough competition and I knew the South Carolina guy (Josh Awotunde) was coming for me on his home track. But I’m glad Coach (Don) Babbitt had me ready to go today. It feels great scoring this many points for my team since I have never scored this many at one meet.”
Having lowered his personal best to 13.75 in the 110m hurdles last week in Athens, Williams registered another pair of career bests at the SEC meet. His 13.37 was quicker than Holloway’s 13.42 on Saturday and positioned Williams for bigger points in the decathlon if he can approach that time again during his 10 events in Eugene, Ore., in a month.
“I came here to compete for a title and that’s what I was able to do today,” said Williams. “A lot of people didn’t expect me to come here and win since I wasn’t competing in the dec but when I go somewhere to compete, I always have the intention of trying to win. It feels great to win a championship for our team and I ended up getting 11 points (one point also from long jump) doing open events rather than 10 doing the dec.”
One race after Williams’ win in the 110m hurdles, his younger sister Kendell Williams took the track and recorded one of the country’s top-10 times of her own in the 100m hurdles to take second. Williams kept consistent with her season-best 12.90 prelims time to run a 12.92 to finish behind Kentucky standout Jasmine Camacho-Quinn.
Junior Cejhae Greene managed a third-place finish in the 100m with his second-fastest time as a Bulldog. Greene sped down the track in 10.20 to add another six points to Georgia’s total and continue his preparations for the coming NCAA qualifying round.
Greene’s teammate who transferred to UGA from Florida State with him before the 2016 season, sophomore Kendal Williams, became Georgia’s second scorer in the sprints. Williams inched closer to the school record of 20.14 with a Bulldog best of 20.30, which improved his No. 2 mark on UGA’s top-10 list.
A second fourth-place finish came from freshman Jessica Drop in a crowded 5000m field. Drop, who had already raced in the 1500m final on Saturday, kept the pace going as the pack spread out and finished with the second-best time of her young career at 16:15.29.
Also in the distances, sophomore Jeramey Hampton scored for the first time at an SEC meet in the 800m, taking sixth. Hampton surged near the finish line to pass Kentucky’s Ian Jones (1:48.46) and finished with his third 1:48 of the season at 1:48.45.
Working with a lineup they had not used this season yet, the Bulldog 4x100m relay team left the Cregger Track with the fourth-best time in school history for sixth place. Mecole HardmanClick here to hear it, who made his debut for Georgia, Greene, Kendal Williams and Maurice Freeman combined to clock a 39.32 on a wet track and in the first track event of the day.
Sophomore Hayden Merrick opened the discus up with a season-best effort of 161-9, which is the second-best mark of her career, to take seventh. This was Georgia’s first scorer on Saturday with the steady light rain beginning in the early rounds.
The meet concluded with the 4x400m relay and the Georgia men scored their last points with the school’s eighth-best time in history. Reggie Glover, Ayrian Evans, Hampton and Freeman handed off the baton en route to a 3:05.13 for seventh place.
Junior Bryan Kamau and senior Sid Vaughn traded places back and forth during the 5000m and it was Kamau who grabbed the eighth-place finish when the laps were complete. He ran a 14:01.65, which is the fifth-best time in school history, to finish just ahead of Vaughn, whose 14:01.97 ranks sixth in the UGA record books.
Also of note, Drop finished one spot out of scoring taking ninth with a 4:25.01 in the 1500m final. This was her second-fastest finish of her UGA career.
The SEC Championships will air as part of a two-hour ESPNU show on Wednesday, May 17, from 8-10 p.m. ET. The broadcast talent includes Dwight Stones (play-by-play), Larry Rawson and Jill Montgomery (analysts) and John Anderson (sideline reporter).
Georgia will now prepare for the NCAA East Prelims in Lexington, Ky., on May 25-27. In addition to the qualified decathletes and heptathletes, those who qualify at Kentucky’s track will then advance to the NCAA Championships in Eugene on June 7-10.