Competition got underway at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Wednesday in Eugene, Orgeon, and Denzel Comenentia led the way for the Bulldogs, highlighted by scoring in a pair of events.
Through the first of four days, the Georgia men stand tied for seventh with 10 points while Texas A&M (21.5), Virginia (20) and Florida (18) make up the top three. The women start their portion of the meet on Thursday.
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On “Global Running Day,” Georgia had three scorers in the field events and put a pair of decathletes in the top five going into day two at the historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
“I thought this day went pretty well for us with some highlights and some room to improve,” said head coach Petros Kyprianou. “Denzel stepped up and scored in two events that were within two hours of each other which shows how tough he is. Alex Poursanidis also scored in a very competitive hammer comp so I am pleased he was able to go out that way. The decathletes are both ahead of their day one personal best so they have to keep grinding in their final five events on Thursday. We have been struggling a little with injuries on the track and I was a little disappointed by our qualifying races but I think the future remains bright there. The rain and tougher conditions are coming and we will be ready for it. I think our team is built to do well in conditions like we will have and now we have to make sure we make the best out of these next three days.”
Comenentia complemented his fifth-place finish in the hammer throw with another fifth-place showing in the shot put. His senior teammate, Alex Poursanidis, wrapped up his four years with the Bulldogs by earning an expected First Team All-America certificate with a seventh-place finish in the hammer.
Senior Devon Williams tallied a day one decathlon personal best of 4,354 and is trailing the leader, Minnesota’s Luca Wieland, by 86 points. Williams was ninth at the 2016 NCAA Championships. Junior Karl Saluri, who was seventh last year, is in fifth place after scoring the most points (4,247) in his career after the opening day thanks in part to two personal records.
The Bulldogs first two scorers and assumed First Team All-Americans of the meet came in the men’s hammer. Comenentia, a native of Amsterdam, answered an opening foul with the longest throw of his career (235 feet, 4 inches), which is also the fourth-best throw in UGA history. He fouled his next three and finished with a mark of 229-8 to lock down his scoring spot after taking 11th as a true freshman in 2016.
Poursanidis, who was throwing in his final collegiate meet, ended his Bulldog run just as he finished it in Eugene: with a First Team All-America certificate. Featuring three throws of 231-0 or better, Poursanidis watched his third attempt travel the second-farthest distance of his career (234-4) for seventh place. This broke a two-year streak of Poursanidis finishing ninth and returned him to the podium after taking sixth in 2014.
This marks the first time since 2009 that Georgia has had two scorers in the hammer after Nate Rolfe and John Freeman went seventh and eighth, in that order.
Two hours later, Comenentia lifted three throws over 64 feet and completed the six rounds in fifth place. His top throw measured 64-5 and trimmed 12 spots off of his 2016 NCAA finish. Comenentia was also a scoring All-American in the shot indoors both as a freshman and a sophomore.
In the decathlon, Williams matched his career-best time in the 100-meter dash to begin his 10 events for 940 points. Williams started the competition in fourth place with a time that equaled his fastest from the 2016 Olympic Trials on the same track.
Improving on his second and third tries, Williams won the long jump with an effort of 25-4.50. He started with a 23-11.75 and then responded with a 25-0.75 before scoring 992 on his winning try. Williams moved into second place by only four points with his finish.
Williams posted a pair of shot put tosses measuring more than 45 feet, but it was his second attempt that placed him fourth in the event. He pushed the ball 46-4.25 for 736 more points.
Passing through the 6-0 mark, Williams stormed through five heights in the high jump to set a personal best of 6-6 to take eighth in the event. The Marietta, Ga., native reached his new career record on his third and final attempt to score 785 points. Williams was in the third position overall following this event, trailing by 151 points.
Williams sped to a personal record of 48.14 in the 400m at this season’s Bulldog Decathlon and came within .02 seconds of that finish Wednesday to finish his five events. He scored his final 901 points of the day with a 48.16 to position himself in second place over Texas A&M’s Lindon Victor, who is the collegiate record holder and defending champion, by five points.
Saluri started his first day by taking third in the 100m for 956 points. He ran a 10.58 after setting a personal best of 10.50 at this year’s SEC Championships.
Like Williams, Saluri built his series up in the long jump and finished fourth for 960 points. He opened at 23-7.50 before traveling UGA personal-best distances of 24-9.25 and 24-11.25 on his second and third attempts, respectively. Following the second event, Saluri was in fourth place overall.
Saluri managed a second-place finish in the shot put thanks to a season-best effort for 742 points. He sandwiched a mark of 46-8 in his series to only finish behind Victor (53-6.25, 870).
In the high jump, Saluri repeated his personal-best performance from the 2016 NCAA meet to clear 6-1.25 and take 22nd. He scored 679 points after passing over the bar on his second try at his fourth height of the day. Saluri was in the exact spot that he finished Nationals last year (seventh) following the fourth event and was trailing the leader by 267 points.
Saluri broke 48 seconds in the 400m for the third time in his Bulldog career to add his final 910 points to his total. Saluri ran a 47.98 to take second in the event and put him within 193 points of the leader.
Also of note, junior Cejhae Greene ran in the 4x100m semifinal and then returned in the 100m semifinal to run his fastest time at Georgia. Greene was third in his heat and ninth overall with a 10.05, missing the final by a single spot. This is the third-best wind-legal time for the Bulldogs and best since 1994.
Williams and Saluri start day two in the decathlon’s final five events at 1:30 p.m. ET. Freshman Beatrice Llano begins the open events on Thursday in the hammer throw at 5 p.m.