Georgia senior Ashinia Miller highlighted the Bulldogs’ second day of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships with an individual championship on Friday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Miller completed the 2016 shot put sweep after also winning the SEC indoor crown in February. He becomes the sixth Bulldog to win an SEC outdoor title and first since Israel Machovec in 2010. True freshman Denzel Comenentia’s runner-up finish also gave Georgia a 1-2 finish in the event for the first time in school history.
The Georgia men are leading the team race after scoring 46 points through two days. Arkansas (45) is in a close second going into Saturday.
In addition, senior Maicel Uibo scored 8,315 points in the highest scoring SEC decathlon in history to finish second. His training partner and teammate, junior Devon Williams, hit the Olympic standard of 8,116 points to finish third thanks to eight personal records. This gave the Bulldogs four current decathletes over 8,300 points.
The Georgia women featured two top-four scorers in the long jump and a finals qualifier during their day at the Sam Bailey Track Stadium. The Lady Bulldogs have scored 23 points and are in sixth place headed into the final day of competition. Arkansas (44) is leading the meet.
“Today we showed how great of a team we are in certain events with our shot putters going 1, 2 and the decathletes each hitting Olympic standards,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “These four collected big points for the team. Moreover, a new scorer for the men emerged in the steeplechase in Steven Spevacek and that made it a great day.
“On the women’s side, the duo of Keturah and Chanice got the job done and Kendell had a great showing in the hurdles. We are excited for the final day and we hope for even better performances on the track and in the field.”
The men’s shot put competition turned into a back and forth Bulldog battle between Miller and Comenentia. Comenentia, who took fifth in the hammer on Thursday and competes in the discus on Saturday, grabbed a round one lead at 61 feet, 6 ¼ inches. The Amsterdam native bettered his edge over Miller to 62-1 on his second throw.
Miller, who had a foul to start and second throw of 59-2.75, moved into the top spot on his third throw of 63-7.75. However, his lead was short-lived as Comenentia launched a career-best toss of 64-1, which is the sixth-best mark on the school’s all-time list. Then, Miller, one of the team’s captains, responded with a fifth throw of 64-6.50 to clinch his second career SEC crown.
“I am excited to win this title and sweep the SEC my last year,” said Miller, whose sixth attempt foot foul landed in the middle of the pit approximately 68 feet away. “I have decided to not worry about marks and just go back to the way I competed growing up in Jamaica, going out and trying to win the competition. I am happy what this means for my team and being a captain, I take that as a responsibility to set a precedent and an example so I’m glad it worked out like it did. It was also fun going back and forth with Denzel, competing hard against a guy I train with every day.”
The Lady Bulldogs managed a third- and fourth-place finish in the long jump. Senior Chanice Porter, who has five First Team All-America certificates in the event, traveled a personal-best distance of 21-8 on her first attempt and had another pair of 21-foot jumps before passing in the finals. This gave Porter third with the third-best mark in Georgia history.
One spot behind Porter in the final standings was sophomore Keturah Orji. Orji, who is the national leader in the triple jump and competes in the event on Saturday, started with a foul and followed that up with her top mark of the day (21-3.25) for fourth.
Also of note, junior Kendell Williams, who is training for the NCAA heptathlon competition, fouled on her first two tries and then finished with an effort of 19-9.50 for 14th place. Williams did return in the 100-meter hurdles and qualified for the finals.
In an epic decathlon showdown, Uibo followed up his three consecutive SEC titles with a second-place finish in 2016 behind Lindon Victor (8,446), who bumped Uibo to fifth on the all-time collegiate list. Williams returned from his day one personal best to a career-high score to join his sister, Kendell Williams, with an Olympic standard in the multi-events.
Uibo tied for sixth in the 110m hurdles (14.84) to start his day with 869 points, moving from second to third overall. Uibo’s finish was better than his time at both the 2015 SEC and NCAA meets. However, he clocked a career-best 14.61 at this year’s Bulldog Decathlon.
A protest victory helped Uibo keep pace in the overall standings in the discus. After his first toss was ruled a foul, Uibo’s longest throw in his series was 134-3 for 683 points. However, the Bulldog coaches protested the first throw’s ruling and won, giving Uibo credit for his opening throw of 147-4 for 765 points. He finished second in the event and stayed at third in the decathlon by 331 points.
Uibo went over the pole vault bar at 16-6.75 on his second attempt for 926 points in the decathlon’s eighth event. This trimmed Victor’s lead to 180 points.
Both Bulldogs registered personal records in the javelin to keep themselves in the second and third spots. Uibo came within four inches of his career best in his first attempt at 203-10 before sailing his last try 210-7 to take second in the competition. This scored him 801 points and moved him to within 253 points of the leader.
Catching Victor in the final event was a long shot for Uibo, but he did not slow down and recorded his third personal record of the meet. Uibo stayed at the front of the pack from the gun and finished a half-second behind the race’s winner with a 4:27.91. His final 758 points delivered him the third 8,300-point performance of his career.
Williams fired out of the starting blocks in the 110m hurdles and finished more than a half second faster than anyone else in his heat and won the first event of the day. The Marietta, Ga., native ran the third-best time of his career (14.03) to score 971 points to slip into the second-place spot in front of Uibo following six of 10 events.
Sitting in last place in the discus through two throws, Williams answered the challenge and sent his third and final attempt a career-long distance of 139-1 to finish third. His performance earned him 713 points and kept him in second place by 290 points.
Williams made the best out his third attempt try at 14-11 in the pole vault and then returned to match his career best of 15-3 at the next height. He scored 804 points in the event for fourth place and lessened the margin between first and third place to 216.
In the ninth of 10 events, Williams wasted no time picking up yet another personal best in the javelin. His first attempt measured 192-2, which was a 10-foot improvement to his previous best and gave him fourth in the event. With his 717 points, Williams stayed in third place by 418 points. More importantly, the Kell High School graduate set himself in position for an Olympic standard.
Williams did just that in the final event of the day after tallying his eighth personal record of the meet. Running with his teammate for most of the race, Williams had to cross the finish line in 4:35.5 to hit the Olympic standard of 8,100 points. He answered the challenge with a career best 4:33.15 for 724 points and passed the qualifying mark by 16 points.
Georgia’s final points of the day came from senior Steven Spevacek in the 3000m steeplechase. While he paced the field earlier in the year in the steeplechase, this marked Spevacek’s first completed race of this kind. He ran an 8:57.07 to finish eighth and move into the No. 4 spot in the school record books.
The Lady Bulldogs also had a finals qualifier in Kendell Williams. Sitting out the heptathlon as she prepares for Nationals, Williams ran her fastest time (12.96) since setting the school record at the 2014 USATF Championships with a 12.87 and her third-best time in history. Williams won her heat on Friday and was second overall.
Williams will run in the 100m hurdle finals at 4:40 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Similar to Williams, sophomore Karl Saluri, who came into the meet leading the nation in the decathlon, competed in the open long jump and 400m. He soared 24-3 and was eighth in the long jump to score a point. Saluri returned in the 400 to run a career-best time of 47.80.
Also, senior Brooke Koblitz turned one of her final collegiate races into a career-best finish in the 1500m. Koblitz finished 18th in the prelim after trimming a second off her former personal record with a 4:28.77.
Koblitz joined Steven Spevacek, Zack Sims, Torrenzia Lyles, Christian Harrison and Kisean Smith as the Bulldogs who missed their graduate ceremony since they were competing at SECs. Harrison runs in the 800m finals on Saturday.
The third day of the meet begins on Saturday with women’s high jump at 12 p.m. The first event on the track is the women’s 4x100m relay at 4 p.m.