COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Georgia track and field teams collected a national title, had six scorers and left with seven qualifiers during an exceptional first day of the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in College Station, Texas, on Friday.
Junior Kate Hall, who captured the 2017 NCAA outdoor long jump crown, set a school record and led a 1-2-3 historic finish in the long jump to pace the Georgia women. This led a scoring attack that put the Lady Bulldogs (33 points) in the lead with Florida (13) and New Mexico (12) in second and third and four teams tied at 10 points.
In addition, true freshman Tara Davis was the third-place finisher in the long jump and qualified for the 60-meter hurdle final with a school and World Junior record time of 7.98. This topped the former World Junior record of 8.00 set in 2017 by Poland’s Klaudia Siciarz and her former UGA record of 8.03 set at the Southeastern Conference Championships two weeks ago in College Station.
For the men, junior Denzel Comenentia repeated his 2017 performance and finished second in the shot put to put the Bulldog men on the scoreboard with eight points and in a tie for eighth place. Virginia Tech (16), Texas A&M (15.5) and Florida and Alabama (both with 11) make up the top three spots in the team standings.
In addition to Hall, Davis and Comenentia mentioned above, Georgia also had sophomore Jessica Drop (5000m), sophomore Louisa Grauvogel (pentathlon) and senior Keturah Orji (long jump) finish in the top eight spots and score.
Six Bulldogs also qualified for seven track event finals on the meet’s opening day. Senior Cejhae Greene and junior Kendal Williams raced out of the same heat and qualified in the 60m; junior Kate Hall fired out of the blocks in the women’s 60m and advanced; freshman Lynna Irby cruised to a win in her 400m heat to qualify; junior Michael Nicholls was the first across the finish line in his 60m hurdle heat to automatically qualify; freshman Tara Davis ran the meet’s second fastest 60m hurdle time to punch her ticket; and Irby completed the day by speeding to the second-fastest time in the 200m to go to the next round.
Four school records also fell or were matched on Friday. Hall dropped her 60m mark to 7.17 and improved her long jump to 22 feet, 1 inch, Davis bettered her 60m hurdle time to 7.98 and Irby tied her fastest 200m time in school history with a 22.66.
Through four events of the heptathlon, freshman Johannes Erm, who is coming off a victory at the SEC Championships, has positioned himself in seventh place with a day one personal record of 3,322 points. His senior teammate Karl Saluri stands 10th at 3,206.
“I would call this a spectacular start for our teams and I am hoping it motivates our team to produce more of the same on Saturday,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “Our finish in the long jump was unbelievable and I am so proud of those three for answering the call. We had so many highlights that it is hard to hit everything, but the long jumpers, Louisa (Grauvogel) starting it off in the pentathlon, Denzel stepping it up again in the shot and all of our qualifiers were definite high points. I am excited about (Saturday) and don’t know how I will sleep tonight thinking about the meet. Go Dawgs!”
Hall, Davis and Orji did what had never been done in the men or women’s long jump at the NCAA indoor meet, which was to sweep the first three spots and earn 24 points. Hall immediately took the lead with a mark of 21-6.25, improved to a personal record of 21-11.50 and then locked down the school record of 22-1 on her third try.
Orji hit her top mark of 21-4.75 on her second attempt and managed to stay just ahead of Davis for runner-up honors. Davis, who moments before had clocked her World Junior record in the 60m hurdle qualifying, built to a UGA career-best mark of 21-4 to score the first national points of her career.
Comenentia arrived at the NCAA meet with the nation’s fourth-best throw this season and proved that he was the country’s second-best performer in the shot put at day’s end. With a series that featured no throws shorter than 65-1.25, Comenentia reached 66-7 on his fourth round throw to top two of the three throwers ahead of him.
Drop, whose twin sister and teammate Samantha was in the crowd cheering her on as she redshirts, tallied the team’s final points on Friday with a fourth-place finish in the 5000m. Seeded eighth, she stayed with the lead pack throughout her laps and had a late burst of speed that propelled her into the fourth spot with a time of 15:53.16, which is the second-fastest time of her career.
Grauvogel managed three personal records on the way to a career-best score in the pentathlon to become Georgia’s first scorer of the meet. The Saarland, Germany, native tallied the third-best score in school history (4,318) to take fifth.
Grauvogel lined up beside Brooks in the 60m hurdles and quickly registered her first personal record to start the competition in second place by 41 points. She clocked an 8.23, which improved her No. 4 spot on the school’s all-time top-10 list.
Grauvogel posted two first attempt clearances to start the high jump and then hit the 5-6.50 mark on her last try. Then, she worked up to a personal-best mark of 5-8.75 on her second attempt. She finished the second event in fourth place trailing by 154 points.
In the shot put, Grauvogel began her shot put series with an effort of 40-4 and that opening attempt ended up being her best. She was in fourth place by 146 points going into the long jump. She sandwiched a mark of 19-5.50 between two fouls in the long jump to add 828 points to her total. Trailing third place by 65 points, Grauvogel was in fourth overall by 280.
Grauvogel narrowly missed a personal record in the 800m and in doing so, she wrapped up her five events with the best score of her career. She ran her four laps in 2:20.51 and improved her No. 3 spot in the school record books by six points with a final tally of 4,318.
Both Bulldog heptathletes stayed within striking distance of the top eight scoring spots after the first day of competition. Erm clocked a personal record of 7.11 in the 60m, trimming .03 off his previous career best from the SEC meet in the facility two weeks ago. He trailed the leader by 96 points and was 15th going into the second event.
Erm’s second career-best effort of the day came in the long jump as the Tallinn, Estonia, native traveled 25-0.75. He went into the shot put in fifth place by 121 points. Erm returned in the shot put with his third personal record, launching his third and final attempt 45-2.25 to take fourth in the event. He was fourth by 110 points after three events.
During an event that had slowed Erm and Saluri all season, Erm left the infield with a significant personal record in the high jump to position himself in scoring position going into the last day. He opened at 6-0.50 and cleared four more heights, including a mark of 6-6.25. This finished Erm in seventh place after four events with a day one top score of 3,322, 279 points from the leader.
Saluri jumpstarted his hep by taking second in the 60m with a season-best time of 6.86, which put him seven points behind the leader. In the long jump, Saluri started with a mark of 24-2.25 and that ended up being his only fair mark. He was fourth by 99 points through two events.
Saluri also began with his top performance in the shot put, going 43-6. He went into the fourth event down 119 points and in sixth place. Saluri completed the fourth event, the high jump, with a 6-1.50 clearance, falling to 10th place by 395 points.
Georgia completed Friday with seven qualifiers for finals on Saturday. Greene and Williams were situated in the same heat in the 60m and both advanced to the next round. Greene, who will be competing in his first NCAA indoor final, clocked the second-fastest time in Georgia history of 6.61 to be third in his heat and fifth overall.
Williams, who was fifth at this meet in 2017, finished just behind Greene with a 6.62 to take fourth in his group and sixth overall. The Bulldog duo will take the track on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. for the final.
Two weeks after taking down a 19-year-old school record in the 60m in the same facility, Hall returned to the short sprint lanes and dropped another record to qualify for the final on Friday. She trimmed .05 off of her time at SECs to register a 7.17, which was second in her heat to automatically qualify.
Hall will race in the 60m final at 5:40 p.m. on the meet’s second day.
Irby started her night in the 400m prelims and finished more than a second ahead of the nearest competitor in her heat to advance. She ran a 51.51 to take third overall and will race in the final on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Seeded 14th coming into the meet, junior Michael Nicholls won his 60m hurdle heat to qualify automatically for the final with the second-fastest time of his career (7.77). His No. 6 overall time in the semifinals puts him in Saturday’s final at 6:10 p.m.
Davis rocketed to a school record of 8.03 in the 60m hurdle prelims at the conference meet two weeks ago and bettered that No. 1 mark in Lady Bulldog history during the semifinals on Friday. She won her heat with a 7.98 and jogged to prepare for the long jump with the second-best time of the day.
Irby concluded her day by punching her ticket in the 200m with a time that equaled her school record set on the same track at the SEC meet. She ran a 22.66, which is tied for the 2018 world lead.
The Bulldog heptathletes start the 60m hurdles on Saturday at 1 p.m. Saluri and Erm will then complete their final two events after the hurdles – the pole vault and 1000m – to wrap up their competition.
Comenentia starts the open events in the men’s weight throw at 3 p.m. on day two. The first Bulldogs on the track on Saturday will be Williams and Greene in the 60m final at 5:30 p.m.