KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia junior Denzel Comenentia secured the first individual title of the weekend to highlight the opening day of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Tennessee’s LaPorte Stadium on Friday.
In his first of three events at the meet, Comenentia lifted his fifth try in the hammer throw a meet record distance of 249 feet, 1 inch to win his second straight title and the Bulldogs’ 14th title in the event since 1992.
Senior Karl Saluri also jumped out to a lead in the decathlon with a pair of season bests. He scored 4,200 points through five events and is leading Arkansas’ Gabe Moore (4,104) with five events to go. Saluri is aiming for a score that will qualify him for his third straight NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The Bulldogs also added a combined two finals qualifiers in the men and women’s 200-meter dash races.
Action begins on Saturday with the decathlon’s sixth event (110m hurdles) at 12 p.m. Fellow decathlete Johannes Erm, who is competing in open events at the meet, will start in the long jump at 2 p.m. while sophomore Tairyn Montgomery and freshman Marie-Therese Obst are slated to compete in the women’s javelin at 3 p.m.
“This was a pretty decent day for us with not a lot of action as far as points to be scored,” said head coach Petros Kyprianou. “Obviously the highlight of the day was Denzel becoming an SEC champion for the fifth time. He is proving that he is very consistent with another massive throw. I am very proud of him for his performance. Yanely (Gomez) in the 10,000 meters was a pleasant surprise getting third and filling in for her teammate who had to drop out. I was also pleased with Karl fighting through his injuries and putting himself halfway to Eugene (for the NCAA Championships). We are hoping for some more good things on Saturday.”
Comenentia, who stands second in the NCAA this year with a mark of 250-3, started with a foul before working up to a third attempt of 243-10. Following a second foul on his fourth try, Comenentia launched the third-longest effort of his career at 249-1 to distance himself from Florida’s Anders Eriksson (243-5). This marks Comenentia’s fifth total SEC crown combined from his victories in the hammer, shot put and weight throw indoors and outdoors.
“It feels great to win this title,” Comenentia said. “I have a good season going in the hammer this year. My only goal in the hammer was coming here to win a gold medal and that’s what I did. To get 10 points to start the meet I think is great for the team.”
Also in the hammer, senior Alex Larsson closed out his conference career by taking 12th with a season-best mark of 207-10.
Sophomore Yanely Gomez became the Georgia women’s first scorer by taking third in the 10,000m with a time of 35:13.47. Having run only one other collegiate race of the distance as a freshman in 2017, Gomez stayed in the middle of the pack until the race’s champion, senior Megan Cunningham (33:47.05), separated herself from the field.
Gomez then slid into the second and held that spot until Alabama freshman Mckenzie Yanek (35:03.33) rallied for the runner-up finish in the final two laps. Gomez crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of the fourth-place finisher to put six points on the scoreboard.
Georgia also completed day one with two qualifiers for event finals. Freshman Lynna Irby was first to lengthen her meet after winning the second heat of the 200m with a career-best time of 22.44. Her time, which was the second fastest in the prelims, moves her to fourth on this year’s national list and improves her No. 4 spot on UGA’s all-time top-10 list. Irby will race in the 200m final on Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
Junior Kendal Williams matched his Georgia personal best to finish with the sixth-best 200m qualifying time and punch his ticket for the final. After finishing fourth in the 200m final with a 20.30 in 2017, Williams equaled that time, which sits second in the school record books, on Friday to move into the country’s top 10 this season with the second-best time in his heat.
During the decathlon, Saluri began Friday by speeding to a season-best finish of 10.52 to win the 100m for the second year in a row. He kept his overall lead after traveling 24-9 on his second attempt in the long jump to finish first in his second consecutive event. In the shot put, Saluri steadily improved to a season-best mark of 46-0.75. He completed the first three events with 2,646 points, leading the nearest competitor by 111 points.
Saluri added 670 points in the high jump after posting a second attempt clearance of 6-0.75 for seventh place. He concluded his day one by winning the 400m thanks to a 48.52. This kept him 96 points ahead of Moore, who was second with a 49.33.