Georgia sophomore Keturah Orji left the field behind on her first attempt in the triple jump to qualify for the Olympics at the U.S. Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., on Thursday.
Orji, a Mount Olive, N.J., native, took off for a mark of 46 feet, 10 inches on her first try and then improved to 46-11.75 on her fifth try, which is the seventh best jump in American history. This performance gave Orji the victory at the Trials and her third national championship of 2016 after sweeping the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets.
Orji is the American and collegiate record holder and a finalist for The Bowerman Award, which is track’s version of the Heisman Trophy. Thursday’s performance made Orji the third-best collegian in history competing outside the collegiate season with a series that featured all six jumps measuring 45-10.75 or better.
Orji’s victory gives the Bulldogs their first official Team USA member and gives the program eight current or former Georgia team members who have qualified for the Olympics. In addition to Orji, seniors Maicel Uibo (decathlon) and Leontia Kallenou (high jump) and sophomores Cejhae Greene (sprints) and Karl Saluri (decathlon) complement former Bulldogs Jenny Dahlgren (hammer), Levern Spencer (high jump) and Shaunae Miller (sprints) going to Brazil.
Sophomore Kendal Williams also blazed to a personal record in the 200-meter dash to advance to the semifinals. Williams, who redshirted in 2016 after transferring from Florida State, clocked a blistering 20.11 (wind-aided) to finish as the 200m runner-up in the opening heat and fourth overall.
This is a personal-best time for Williams, who has already clocked a personal record of 10.04 in the 100m at the Trials. Williams advanced as far as the semifinals in the 100m.
A pair of former Bulldogs also competed in the opening round of the 400m hurdles. LaRon “Bud” Bennett ran out of the second heat and was 18th overall with a 51.27 while Justin Gaymon registered a 51.35 to take 19th.
In addition, former Lady Bulldog Allison Updike finished 15th in the javelin with a top throw of 169-5. Updike, who stands sixth on the school’s all-time list with a top mark of 167-0, won the 2012 SEC title for Georgia as a freshman before transferring to Azusa Pacific.
A top-three finish in the finals at the Trials will clinch a trip to Rio de Janeiro (August 12-21) for Williams (200m) and junior Kendell Williams (heptathlon) since they have recorded the Olympic standard in their respective events.
Williams will run in the 200m semifinals at 8:37 p.m. ET on Friday. Also, former SEC champion and Bulldog All-American, Morgann Leleux, will compete in the women’s pole vault qualifying at 6 p.m. Leleux transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette for her graduate year before the 2016 season.