Bulldog track and field’s Keturah Orji has been named one of three finalists The Bowerman Award, which is considered the sport’s highest individual honor, for the second consecutive year.
Orji was picked from 10 semifinalists, including seven-time NCAA champion, 2017 Honda Award winner and Georgia teammate Kendell Williams. Orji joins Arizona State junior Maggie Ewen and Oregon junior Raevyn Rogers as the finalists for the iconic 35-pound trophy. The Bowerman Award was named after legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman.
There have been four winners from the Southeastern Conference, including LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan in 2012 as the league’s only female recipient, and 13 finalists from the SEC, including seven women, since the award’s inception in 2009.
Orji was a finalist with Ole Miss’ Raven Saunders and Texas’ Courtney Okolo in 2016 and the Longhorn senior won the award. There have been four two-time finalists on the women’s side with Orji, Okolo, LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan and Arizona’s Brigetta Barrett being named to the top three twice. Okolo and Duncan both walked away with the Bowerman trophy following their second time through.
The Bowerman Award winners will be announced in December at the 2017 USTFCCCA Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge.
Orji, a Mount Olive, N.J., native who was also a Bowerman semifinalist as a true freshman in 2015, has become one of the most decorated jumpers in NCAA history. This year, she propelled the Lady Bulldogs to record-breaking second-place finishes at the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets. The six-time SEC champion and 11-time First Team All-American has won five out of the six triple jump national titles she has contended for (finished second at the 2015 NCAA indoor meet). Orji is 12-0 in outdoor collegiate meets in the triple in her career and 24-for-25 overall over her UGA career. Internationally, Orji won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials and finished fourth in Rio (top American finish in the triple jump in history) after also taking fourth at the World Indoor Championships.
The 2016 USTFCCCA National Outdoor Women’s Field Athlete of the Year owns the top, second, third, sixth and 10th-best indoor collegiate jumps in history while outdoors, she owns the top, second, third, eighth and ninth-best collegiate jumps ever. A two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection, Orji was also an Academic All-American in 2016 (2017’s team is scheduled to be announced on Friday).
In 2017, Orji won the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in the triple jump yet again. She posted two other top-three national finishes in the long jump for another pair of First Team All-America honors, including a personal best mark of 22 feet, 1Ž4 inches for runner-up honors at outdoor Nationals. Orji scored a combined 34 points at the NCAA Indoor & Outdoor Championships of the team’s 113.2 points, which is more than 30 percent of the team’s output.
Orji broke the collegiate and American records in the triple jump at this year’s SEC Indoor Championships with a mark of 46-11.75. The Financial Planning major continued her dominance outdoors with her third career outdoor national triple jump crown. She notched both the second-best wind-legal triple jump mark (46-11.50) in collegiate history and the fourth-best all-conditions triple jump mark (46-10.75) outdoors.
Adding to her ever-growing trophy case, Orji was the 2017 SEC indoor and outdoor triple jump champion and was named the SEC Women’s Field Athlete of the Year during both seasons. The Honda Award finalist for track & field was also the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) South Region Women’s Field Athlete of the Year indoors and outdoors and the National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year indoors.