The Georgia track and field teams competed 0n the first day of the Virginia Challenge in Charlottesville, VA on Friday, and the Bulldog throwers put up some impressive numbers on the day.
While a couple runners and a jumper excelled on this first day, it was the throwers who highlighted the first day for the Bulldogs at the University of Virginia on Friday. Those performances helped the Georgia track and field teams come away with an array of top-10 national performances and inked fresh additions to the Bulldog record books.
“We had an overall good day, some really good stuff happened on this first day,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “Our highlights had to be Denzel (Comenentia) in both of his events, (Alex) Poursanidis in the hammer and Aliyah (Johnson) in the triple jump. I am proud of Denzel and how he reacted in an awesome shot put comp and then by putting up the number he did in the hammer earlier in the day. He and Alex are really determined and hungry to finish this season out strong. I told both of them in our meeting before the meet that we as athletes love the attention in these settings so put on a show and demand the attention. And that’s just what they did.
“The key for this entire team is consistency, and that’s what we are getting. We have to continue to be resilient and not be satisfied. I am really proud of Aliyah’s personal record in the triple and I hope she continues to build on that. Our pole vaulters had great conditions and stepped it up today. Jeramey (Hampton) showed his consistency by finishing well in a tough comp and (Yanely Gomez) fought hard in her first 10K and I’m proud of her effort.
“On Saturday, we have some of our best competing but the weather looks to be questionable. But that’s why we are here. We need to get ready for this type of thing in Oregon and I am excited to see what happens, especially in our distance races where they should have near ideal conditions.”
Despite featuring four fouls in his series, senior Alex Poursanidis eclipsed his former personal record and won the hammer Invite by five feet. He recovered from two fouls in his first two attempts to launch an effort of 235 feet, 10 inches on his fourth try, which is the country’s second-best this year and is third in the UGA record books (best since 2002).
Also in the throws, sophomore Denzel Comenentia built up to a fourth shot put toss of 66-8.50 to take second in the Invite portion of the meet. This monstrous throw ranks him fourth in the NCAA this year and moves him ahead of the great Reese Hoffa for the third spot in the Bulldog record books.
Comenentia started his day by launching the third-longest hammer throw of his career and the second longest this season (227-3) on his first attempt to win. Comenentia’s opening mark gave him more than a 24-foot victory, his first of the year in this event.
Sophomore Aliyah Johnson wasted no time in recording the seventh-best triple jump mark in school history to be the top collegiate finisher (second overall) in the Invite competition. She traveled 43-8.50 and moved into the nation’s top 10 with her effort.
Freshman Kate Hall blazed to the Lady Bulldogs’ fourth-best 100-meter dash time in school history to win her UGA debut in the event. Hall clocked an 11.36, the fastest time for a freshman this year and the 20th-fastest time overall, to finish with the best time for a Georgia woman since 2004. Hall still has the country’s fourth-best long jump this year (21-6) as well.
The Lady Bulldogs posted a pair of UGA personal bests to walk away from the pole vault with a tie for the win and a third-place finish. Senior Georgia Stefanidi shot from eighth to sixth on the school’s all-time top-10 list with a clearance at 13-6.50, which is the best showing for a Georgia woman since Morgann Leleux set a school record of 14-6.75 at the 2012 SEC Championships.
During just her second outdoor meet with the team, freshman Kayla Smith went over the bar at 13-2.50 on her first try to take third in the pole vault and is now ninth in the UGA record books.
Sophomore Jeramey Hampton improved his personal best in the 800m by .01 to take seventh. After running a 1:48.18 at the Texas Relays, Hampton clocked a 1:48.17 to better his No. 6 mark on the school’s all-time top-10 list.
Staying on the track, true freshman Yanely Gomez rocketed to ninth on the school’s all-time top-10 list in the 10,000m with a ninth-place finish. She ran a 35:10.45 during her first race at this distance as a collegiate competitor and was the Lady Bulldogs’ best finisher since 2014.
In the women’s hammer, sophomore Hayden Merrick posted a personal best on her third try of 173-0, followed that up with a 178-7 effort on her fifth attempt and ended with a best toss of 178-10 on her last throw. She finished third in the meet after opening with a foul.
The Bulldog decathletes continue to train for the postseason and senior Devon Williams and junior Karl Saluri competed in the discus on Friday. Williams bettered his previous best of 151-10 set two weeks ago during the Bulldog Decathlon with a third throw of 155-4 at the Virginia Challenge.
Daniel Navarro is expected to start the action for Georgia on Saturday in the men’s 5000m at 9:35 a.m.