Georgia’s track and field teams finished third and fifth at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships thanks in part to another pair of titles in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday.
Georgia (65) finished just two points behind second-place LSU while Arkansas (110) won on its home turf. This marked the Lady Bulldogs’ best finish since taking second in 2007. The Bulldog men (52) took fifth while the Razorbacks (109) cruised to complete the sweep of the team race.
Georgia combined for four SEC titles; three SEC Championship meet records and three school records over the two-day meet as the Bulldogs recorded the best combined finish since 2012. The men were third, and the women were fifth that year.
On Saturday, senior Garrett Scantling won the heptathlon championship after scoring 6,003 points to win by 211 points. This marked the first time in history that one competitor has won three SEC heptathlon titles (2013, 2015) and the second time that the same school has swept the indoor multi-events (Georgia, 2015).
The Bulldogs scored 18 points in the heptathlon thanks to sophomore Karl Saluri’s career-best output for second place. Saluri (5,792) moved from No. 6 to No. 5 in the school record books and improved to No. 7 on the national list.
Similar to Scantling, sophomore Keturah Orji brought her second consecutive SEC crown back to Athens in the women’s triple jump. The Mount Olive, N.J., native soared a meet and school record distance of 46 feet, 2 ½ inches on her first try to leave little suspense. The former SEC meet record of 46-0.50 had lasted for the last 16 years.
Success in the men’s distance medley relay gave Georgia another accolade on the day. The Bulldog foursome combined to record a school-record time of 9:43.55, shattering the previous fastest time of 9:47.21 run earlier this year.
On Friday, Georgia captured its first pair of individual titles. Up by only 18 points going into the pentathlon’s final event, junior Kendell Williams ran away in the 800 meters and clinched her second consecutive SEC pentathlon title.
Senior Ashinia Miller locked down the second conference crown of the meet for Georgia (first for the men) by winning his first SEC shot put title with a season-best effort.
The meet will air as part of a two-hour show on ESPN on Sunday at seven p.m. ET. The broadcast talent includes Dwight Stones, Larry Rawson, and John Anderson.
“We continued the momentum we built up on Friday and finished strong with our best combined finish in a while,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “The highlight on this second day was Keturah Orji setting the tone with a school record on her first triple jump to win her second straight title. She was one of many today, including Scantling’s performance in the heptathlon and many different personal bests and school records spread across our team. We now have to return from this meet, continue our training and get ready for NCAAs in Birmingham. I am really proud of the fight our teams showed at a highly-competitive SEC Championships.”
In the men’s combined events, Scantling cruised to a victory in the heptathlon’s 60-meter hurdles after finishing first in the third heat with a time of 8.06. This victory gave him 967 points and pushed him 23 points ahead of Texas A&M’s Lindon Victor, who came into the day up 22 points.
In the pole vault, Scantling passed on the first 11 heights and then tied his personal-best mark of 16-8.75 on his opening attempt to win. This showing earned Scantling 941 points and gave him another entry into the No. 10 spot on the Bulldogs’ all-time top-10 list. This gave Scantling his second personal record of the meet after also registering one in the shot put on Friday.
Scantling completed his third title run by finishing ninth in the 1000m. Clocking a 2:57.06, he scored 693 to surpass 6,000 points for the fourth time in his career.
Saluri started the second day with a sizeable personal record in the 60 hurdles. Clocking an 8.51 earlier in the season, Saluri shot across the finish line in 8.37 to win the second heat and finish fourth overall. His performance earned him 891 points and kept him in fourth place.
With three first attempt clearances and four overall, Saluri posted a career-best mark of 15-9 to take third in the pole vault. This clearance earned him third in the event and pushed him to third overall thanks to his 849 points.
Saluri managed a 16-point edge over the third-place finisher after running a 2:42.14 in the 1000m. He finished third place in the final race for 850 points.
Junior Devon Williams, who is the Bulldogs’ top hurdler and had matched his career best of 7.85 earlier this year, had a disastrous start in his fifth of seven events. His leg hung up on the first hurdle, and he tripped and fell to the ground, unable to finish. Williams skipped the final two events after starting the day in fifth place.
Orji, who has now won the last three conference triple jump championships counting her 2015 outdoor win, flew 46-2.50 on her first try and answered with a mark of 45-9 on her second attempt to solidify the victory. Her opening effort improved her previous school record of 45-10.50 from last year, bettered her No. 1 national spot and shot her to No. 11 on the current world list (top American).
Adding two points in the triple jump for the Lady Bulldogs was sophomore Aliyah Johnson. Johnson claimed the No. 9 spot in the school record books with a sixth and final attempt of 42-7.50 to finish seventh.
The Lady Bulldog weight throwers came through with career-best performances for 14 points. Sophomore Asianna Covington lifted her fifth attempt a mark of 68-1.50, which was 16th on the national list to start the weekend. Covington earned runner-up honors with the second-best effort in school history behind Jenny Dahlgren’s enormous NCAA winning mark of 78-10.50 10 years ago.
Senior Shelby Ashe posted the longest weight throw of her career on her second try. Ashe bettered her No. 4 spot in school history with a mark of 67-2.75, which has her a third-place finish.
The Georgia women piled up 13 points with a runner-up and fourth-place finish in the high jump. After the Lady Bulldogs won it the last two years, sophomore Mady Fagan reached a clearance of 5-11.50 for second place while junior Tatiana Gusin reached the same height (with one more miss in her series) and finished two spots behind her teammate.
The meet officials originally called for a jump-off between Fagan and South Carolina’s Nakita Gray. After both had missed the first height, the bar was dropped once, and Fagan cleared, but Gray missed, declaring Fagan the champion. But the officials came back and said a jump-off was not necessary and despite Fagan clearing 6-0.75 and Gray missing, Gray was given the gold medal.
Junior Leontia Kallenou, who captured the 2014 and 2015 championships, also scored a point with an eighth-place finish after clearing 5-10.
Poursanidis opened with a toss of 65-2.25 in the weight throw to lock down his spot in the finals. From there, the Paphos, Cyprus, native built up to the longest throw of his career at 68-8 to earn silver medal honors.
Poursanidis came into the meet ranked sixth in the conference and exchanged his No. 9 spot on the school’s all-time list with the No. 8 spot. Poursanidis switched spots with former Bulldog, and current Tennessee throws coach John Newell, who was in attendance watching his thrower, Cameron Brown (73-1.25), win the weight throw title.
Senior Kisean Smith, freshman Jeramey Hampton, senior Christian Harrison and sophomore Bryan Kamau worked together to leave the former school record in the distance medley relay far behind. The quartet clocked a 9:43.55 for fifth-place honors and topped the previous school record, which was set at the 2016 McCravy Memorial, by nearly four seconds.
During one of the final events of the meet, the Bulldog 4x400m relay team sped to the fastest time for UGA since the school record was set in 2012. Senior Ayrian Evans, junior Maurice Freeman, junior Derrick White and sophomore Raytez Jenkins put together a time of 3:07.47 and finished in third.
Their time, which was 11th on the national list at the start of the weekend, was the best for Georgia since the Bulldogs’ late legend Torrin Lawrence led a 3:06.97 charge at the conference meet four years ago.
Next up for the Bulldogs will be the NCAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Ala., on March 11-12. The top 16 nationally in each event and the relay will advance to Nationals, and the lists will be finalized this week.
Full stats and full results from the SEC Championships will be posted at georgiadogs.com.