Georgia sophomore Anna Hall improved her runner-up finish in 2020 to win the pentathlon during the opening day of the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Thursday.
The fourth-ranked Georgia women have 10 points and are tied for fifth place and ninth-ranked Bulldog men are 10thplace with two points through a combined five scoring events on day one.
“Today was the first day of the Championships and as always, our combined event athletes opened up the day with some serious energy and world-class performances,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “Anna’s title adds to the great tradition we have had the last decade in the combined events and how this event has been the foundation of our program. Additionally, Anna showed some major high jump potential to match her world top-five ranking.
“Kyle (Garland) and Ziggy (Zoller) did their thing on day one and placed themselves in a great position at one of the toughest heptathlons in the SEC. Both being ahead of their personal best day one scores shows they are aspiring to continue the same thing that Anna started off for us. Kyle has shown that he’s a maturing Olympic-level decathlete and he also wants to defend his title. He’s up against some major competition by the Arkansas folks who look very good too. It’s also been exciting to see Ziggy (Zoller), who is a walk-on, doing more and better than what a full scholarship athlete could do. He is definitely an inspiration to our team.
“We are looking forward to (Friday’s) action and the energy this team has been showing all year long. They have been impressing everyone. The comments I keep getting from our competitors are very flattering and show that this team has a strong cohesive culture that was carried over from the previous NCAA Championship team that started back in 2015-16 season. Excited for the future! Go Dawgs.”
Hall, a native of Greenwood, Colo., scored the second-highest total of her career (4,521 points) with a score that ranks 21st on the all-time collegiate performance list. In addition to topping the No. 3 all-time collegiate performer in Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens (6th – 3,818), Hall, who is the No. 4 all-time collegiate performer, edged the nearest competitor by 426 points on Thursday. This marks the sixth overall SEC pentathlon title for the Lady Bulldogs and first since Kendell Williams won her third consecutive crown in 2017.
Through four of seven events in the heptathlon, redshirt sophomore Kyle Garland left the facility with three seasonal bests and a personal best to hold a 174-point lead going into day two with 3,454 points. Redshirt sophomore Ziggy Zoller, who is competing in just his second collegiate heptathlon, distanced himself 98 points away from his previous day one personal record with 3,153 points thanks to four personal bests and is in fourth.
The Bulldogs have captured the last eight straight titles in the event, including the 2020 championship from Garland and the 2018-19 crowns from senior Johannes Erm. Unfortunately, Erm sustained an ankle injury during the second event on Thursday and was forced to stop the competition.
Junior Alencar Pereira surged in the weight throw final to move into seventh place for two points with the longest toss in his brief UGA career. The 2020 Big Ten Conference champion who transferred from Nebraska moved into the nation’s top 20 this year with his effort.
In addition, the Bulldog distance medley relay team of redshirt sophomore Clay Pender, senior Delano Dunkley, sophomore Caleb Cavanaugh and sophomore Sam Bowers clocked the fourth-fastest time in school history (best since 2018 SEC meet) to finish eighth to score a point.
Action begins on Friday with the final three events of the heptathlon (60m hurdles, pole vault, 1000m) for Erm and Garland starting at 11:00 a.m. ET. Sophomores Matthew Boling and Karel Tilga start the open events for the Bulldog men at 2:45 p.m. in the long jump while Hall, sophomore Shelby Tyler and junior Sakari Famous begin the women’s open events at 6:30 p.m. in the high jump.
For results throughout the weekend, please visit: gado.gs/6c6
During the pentathlon, Hall wasted no time setting the tone with a personal best in the 60-meter hurdles to put her in third. She registered an 8.35 for 1,050 points and moved into a tie for 10th on the school’s all-time top-10 list.
Other than a single opening miss at 5 feet, 7 ¼ inches, Hall was perfect in the high jump through 6 feet. She then recorded a third-attempt clearance at 6-1.25 to tie her personal best before notching a fresh personal record of 6-2.25 on her second attempt at the height.
Since Gittens also cleared a top height of 6-2.25, both competitors take over the meet record previously held by Arkansas’ Makeba Alcide (6-1.50). Hall matched the No. 2 spot in the current national list in the high jump and the No. 5 all-time mark in the school record books. Hall led Gittens by two points headed into the third event.
Hall extended her lead by a single point to three over Gittens in the shot put. Opening with a toss of 38-7, Hall bounced back from a second attempt foul to launch a season-best effort of 41-1.75. This was ¼ inch further than Gittens’ top mark (41-1.50) and Hall’s effort scored 697 points to Gittens’ 696.
Starting with a foul in the long jump, Hall responded with an effort of 18-4.50 on her second attempt, which ended up being her top performance for 729 points. Because Gittens only reached 13-6 (333), Hall took a demanding lead headed into the pentathlon’s finale, the 800m.
Hall captured her third individual event win with the conclusion of the 800m. Starting with a meet-best split of 31.14, Hall won the race with a 2:10.89 to walk away comfortably with the championship. She plans to return in the open high jump on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Pereira, who finished 2020 with the 10th-best throw in the country for the Cornhuskers, had a mark of 67-7 to grab the ninth and final spot in the weight throw final. Following a fourth round foul, he unleashed a UGA personal-best toss of 69-5.25 to move to seventh and take over the No. 7 spot in the school record books with the top effort for Georgia since 2018.
In the men’s DMR race, the Georgia quartet registered a 9:43.66 to take eighth and score the first point for the men. Pender (1200m – 2:58.34), Dunkley (400m – 48.90), Cavanaugh (800m – 1:50.94) and Bowers (1600m – 4:05.94) shaved more than 30 seconds off of the Bulldogs’ DMR finish at the meet last year.
In the heptathlon, Garland is seven points ahead of his 2020 day one personal best. That meet finished with him having the nation’s third-best seven-event total last year (5,994). Zoller is currently 10th nationally and is battling to qualify for the coming NCAA Indoor Championships.
Zoller shot out of the blocks with a personal-best time of 6.95 in the 60m for 900 points, which put him in third. Erm and Garland finished with season-best times of 7.11 for 844 points and were in eighth and ninth place, respectively, after event one.
The long jump sent Erm into the lead with a season-best effort and then dropped him out of the competition with an injury on his second try. Erm soared 24-9.25 for 947 points on his opening attempt and moved into the overall lead. However, the Tallinn, Estonia, native injured his ankle on his second jump and was forced to retire from the competition.
Garland also had a season best in the long jump while Zoller posted his second straight personal best. Garland opened at 24-0.75 to score 893 points and improved one spot overall into fifth. Zoller sandwiched the best long jump of his career at 23-9 between his first and third tries to score 871 points and move to third place overall.
The Bulldog duo both reached personal bests in the shot put to position themselves in first and third. Garland had career bests on all three tosses, topping out at a monstrous 50-4 on his final attempt for 811 points. This gave him a 35-point overall lead. Zoller had the top performance of his career on his second try with a 42-8.25 effort that earned him 668 points. Zoller was 109 points behind Garland at this point.
Garland concluded his first four events by equaling his high jump performance from the 2020 meet. He cleared a season-best height of 6-11 on his second try for his final 906 points of the day. Zoller wrapped up his day just as he had started, tallying a personal best. Fending off a third attempt at 6-0.50 with a clearance, Zoller worked up to 6-2.75 for another 714 points.