Georgia track and field legend Keturah Orji has been awarded The Bowerman, which is given each year to the top male collegiate student-athlete and top female collegiate student-athlete in the sport of NCAA track and field.
This marks the award’s 10thyear in existence. The honor is given each year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). While there have been four winners from the Southeastern Conference on the men’s side through 2017, Orji has become just the second winner from the SEC in 2018 for the women and first since 2012 (LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan). Orji was already the first three-time finalist in the history of The Bowerman for the women.
Orji edged Kentucky freshman Sydney McLaughlin and Arizona senior Maggie Ewen for track and field’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
The NCAA Woman of the Year from of Mount Olive, N.J., was 7-0 during her 2018 indoor and outdoor triple jump competitions, including setting American and collegiate indoor records (47 feet, 8 inches), a collegiate outdoor record (47-11.75) and capturing the SEC and NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in the event.
In her second event, the long jump, Orji set a school record outdoors (22-4.25) to win the SEC crown and locked down her first NCAA championship in the event after taking second in both the SEC and NCAA indoor meets in the long jump in 2018. Her 18 points indoors helped allow the Lady Bulldogs to collect their first NCAA team title while her 20 points outdoors helped give Georgia its second straight runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships.
On top of being the SEC Field Athlete of the Year indoors and outdoors and the league’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Orji was named the USTFCCCA National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year during both seasons last year.
Orji — who was fourth by only three centimeters in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro — is a 15-time First Team All-American and eight-time NCAA individual national champion (four times in the outdoor triple jump, three times in the indoor triple jump and once in the outdoor long jump). Her outstanding performance in those events helped Georgia win its 2018 NCAA indoor team title and finish as the national runner-up three more times.
Orji holds the American and collegiate records for the indoor triple jump and the collegiate record for the outdoor triple jump. She was a four-time USTFCCCA National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year, and she is the only woman in history to be a three-time Bowerman finalist. She completed her collegiate career 31-1 overall in the triple jump and currently owns the top eight indoor marks in NCAA history and the top six performances outdoors.
Orji, a former Bulldog team captain, served for three years on the UGAAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), including as vice president during her senior year. A four-year attendee of the Student-Athlete Leadership Academy, she founded Amara’s Pride in 2017, an after-school mentoring program for middle school girls, focusing on self-worth, the importance of education, social media influences and the power of perseverance.
Orji also worked with an income tax assistance program, spent time with children whose parents were incarcerated during the holiday season and served as a United Team leader, through which she mentored other student-athletes through weekly small groups and Bible studies.
A 2018 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar, Orji was a member of Georgia’s Sphinx Club honor society, the oldest honorary society in Georgia history, and Blue Key Honor Society, whose members are committed to leadership in student life, high scholastic achievement, service to others, citizenship and adherence to principles of faith. She was named the 2018 SEC Women’s Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, her third honor of this kind and the university’s Joel Eaves Scholar-Athlete of the Year presented to the female student-athlete who has the highest GPA going into their senior year.
Orji received the SEC’s H. Boyd McWhorter Postgraduate Scholarship, presented to the conference’s top male and female scholar-athletes. She was recognized by the USTFCCCA as the 2017 Indoor and Outdoor National Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, also giving her three of those honors in her career. She is now pursuing a graduate degree at Georgia and is a volunteer assistant with the Bulldog track and field program.