Track & Field: Keturah Orji Wins 7th NCAA Title

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Track & Field: Keturah Orji Wins 7th NCAA Title

Senior Keturah Orji won her first career long jump title and seventh overall to highlight the second day of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Thursday.

With the pair Georgia men who also scored Thursday, they are leading with 34 points in front of Mississippi State (18) and Kentucky and Akron (16). The Lady Bulldogs stand in third place in the team race with 14 points behind Stanford (25) and Florida (17).

Orji went into the meet as the national leader in the long jump and left the Hayward Field infield as the NCAA champion in the event. After already winning six triple jump crowns in her career, Orji won the Lady Bulldogs’ third consecutive title (Chanice Porter, 2016; Kate Hall, 2017) and fourth overall in the event and 23rd overall outdoors.

True freshman Tara Davis complemented Orji’s victory by taking fifth in the long jump to add another four points. This makes Davis a scorer in the indoor and outdoor long jump during her first season in red and black.

On the men’s side, Georgia also had a scoring duo on the meet’s second day. Senior Karl Saluri and freshman Johannes Erm became the first teammates to finish in the decathlon’s top three since 1992 to boost the Bulldogs’ total another 14 points. Saluri stormed from third to second past Erm to score a personal record of 8,137 points, which is a five-place improvement from his 2016 finish at the meet. Erm held on for third with a career-best total of 8,046 points after taking fourth in the heptathlon at the 2018 NCAA indoor meet.

Georgia also had one sprinter qualify in two events on Thursday. True freshman Lynna Irby topped her own school 400-meter dash record to become the fifth-fastest performer in collegiate history with the sixth-fastest time (50.11) in NCAA history to advance. A short while later, Irby got back in the starting blocks for the 200m and finished with the second-fastest qualifying time (22.37) racing into a -0.3 wind.

On Wednesday, junior Denzel Comenentia swept the hammer throw and shot put for only the third time in NCAA history to give the Bulldogs two national individual champions outdoors in the same season for the first time.

Orji began her long jump series with a foul but quickly bounced into contention in the second round. She had a second effort that measured 21 feet, 8 inches and then hit 21 feet again on her third try. Orji clinched her victory in the fourth round after traveling 21-10.75 to finish ahead of Florida senior Darrielle McQueen (21-8.25). Orji will return to action in the triple jump on Saturday at 6:40 p.m. and try to become the first competitor since 2009 to sweep the long and triple jumps.

Davis, who left the 100m hurdle semifinal not long before the long jump, also fouled on her first try. However, she returned with a top mark of 21-3.25 on her second attempt and then hit one more 21-footer to help assure her top-five finish. Davis was third at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships to complete the historic 1-2-3 finish for the Lady Bulldogs.

Hall, who was the defending NCAA indoor and outdoor champion, finished 16th in the competition after her third effort measured 20-1.75.

During his final day of collegiate competition, Saluri earned his fourth First Team All-America certificate with a career-best finish of second in the decathlon. After scoring 8,020 to win this year’s Bulldog Decathlon, Erm upped his personal record and secured his team six more points by taking third.

Saluri ran out of the first 110m hurdles heat and was 10th with a 15.25. Starting the day in fifth place, he watched his top discus toss measure 140-11 to stay within striking distance of the leader.

Saluri skipped his pole vault heights up to 14-9.50 and then cleared three marks en route to a 15-9.25 finale. This was a season-best effort for Saluri as he grabbed top honors in the second flight. Saluri returned in the javelin and lifted a season-best effort of 186-8 to take fourth and put him in third overall going into the finale, 428 points behind the leader.

Needing to make a move to take over second place and score a career-best, Saluri stuck with the event winner from Louisville, Joe Delgado (4:22.36), and completed his 1500m laps with the fastest time of his career at 4:24.49. This finish propelled him past Erm and gave him a finish that was 199 points behind winner Tim Duckworth of Kentucky (8,336).

Erm began day two of the decathlon by finishing fourth in the 110m hurdles thanks to a time of 14.88. This left him trailing Duckworth by 237 points and in second place overall. In the discus, he trimmed that lead to 207 points by winning with a personal record of 145 feet on his opening try.

Erm tallied his second consecutive personal best in the pole vault after 15-9.25. Coming in with a previous career best of 15-3.75, Erm started at 14-5.50 and cleared another pair of heights to stay in second. His competition was short and sweet in the javelin after he watched his first attempt travel 181-1, which was a foot shorter than his personal best. Erm then passed on his final two throws to get ready for the 1500m as he trailed Duckworth by 330 going into the final event.

Battling tightness in his hamstring, Erm managed to stay in the 1500m race and finish in 4:54.46 for his final 592 points. He slipped 91 points behind Saluri to give the Bulldogs their 2-3 finish.

Irby, a native of Indianapolis, ran out of the third and final heat in the 400m semifinals and left the other 23 sprinters in the field far behind. She ran a 50.11, which passed her school record of 50.44 set at the NCAA East Prelims two weeks ago, to be more than a second faster than anyone else who ran in the semis. Irby, who missed the meet record by .01 and has the fastest time at the meet since 2005, races at 7:32 p.m. in the 400m final on Saturday.

A short time after her blazing 400m, Irby lined up in the 200m and retired for the day after clocking the second-fastest time in qualifying as well as the second-fastest wind-legal time of her Georgia career. She sped to a 22.37 and finished .01 behind the top qualifier. Irby will race in the 200m final at 8:07 p.m.

In the 100m hurdle semifinal, Davis registered a wind-legal personal record of 13.09 to take 14th. While this did not make the final, she takes over the No. 2 spot on Georgia’s all-time top-10 list after her fastest time of 2018 (13.04) was wind-aided.

Sophomores Marie-Therese Obst and Tairyn Montgomery competed in the javelin and took 15th and 20th, respectively. Obst bettered her No. 10 all-time mark in the school record books with a toss of 159-3 but did not make the final. Montgomery worked up to a mark of 153-5 in her first NCAA meet.

Also of note, sophomore Samantha Drop made her debut at the NCAA outdoor meet and finished 21st in the 10,000m with a 35:03.81.

On Friday, sophomore Louisa Grauvogel will crank up day three action by starting the first four events of the heptathlon (100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m) at 3:30 p.m. Junior Keenon Laine and freshman Antonios Merlos will start the open events by competing in the high jump at 8:00 p.m. Senior Cejhae Greene will also race in the 100m final at 9:22 p.m. while junior Kendal Williams will take the track in the 200m final at 10:07 p.m.

Other than the decathlon running Wednesday-Thursday and the heptathlon going Friday-Saturday, the meet is set up to be a men’s competition on Wednesday and Friday and a women’s competition on Thursday and Saturday.

ESPN has exclusive rights to broadcast the meet and will feature the Nationals on a variety of platforms:

*Friday: 8:30 p.m. – 11 p.m., ESPN; 3:20 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., ESPN3

*Saturday: 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m., ESPN; 2:20 p.m. – 8:15 p.m., ESPN3

*tentative schedule

To check out live results throughout the four-day season finale, please check out:

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