Georgia track and field freshman Lynna Irby and senior Keturah Orji have been named two of the 10 semifinalists for The Bowerman, which is given annually to the nation’s most elite collegiate male and female.
Orji, who was named the National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year for the fourth time by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) earlier on Wednesday, became the first four-time semifinalist (2015-18) in the award history. She was also one of three finalists for The Bowerman in 2016 and 2017.
Irby swept the USTFCCCA South Region Indoor/Outdoor Women’s Runner of the Year honors in her first year with the Lady Bulldogs.
The Georgia duo combined to help produce one of the most memorable years in UGA track and field history. Orji and Irby tallied 30 points together as the Lady Bulldogs scored 61 to capture the program’s first national team title at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships. Outdoors, Orji was the meet’s high scorer with 20 points and Irby added 16 points as the pair combined for three titles and the Georgia women scored 52 points to finish second by a single point.
Orji, a native of Mount Olive, N.J., swept the NCAA outdoor triple and long jump titles, making her only the third in meet history to do so and tying her as the meet’s top scorer. She led her team to a national runner-up finish to USC by one point. Orji became the first to win four NCAA outdoor triple jump titles and is the fifth in meet history to sweep a single event during a career. She is also third in meet history to record five individual event crowns in a career.
With a total of eight NCAA titles indoors and outdoors, Orji is the most decorated Division I women’s field event athlete in history. She set an outdoor collegiate triple jump record of 47 feet, 11 3/4 inches at the SEC Championships and was the USTFCCCA South Region Women’s Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year. The SEC Outdoor Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Women’s Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year was recently named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District Team for the third time. Orji owns the top six outdoor triple jump marks in collegiate history, including three from 2018. She finished her career 31-1 in indoor/outdoor collegiate triple jump competitions, finishing only as a runner-up at the 2015 NCAA indoor meet as a freshman. Orji also won her fourth SEC outdoor triple jump title to become the first competitor in conference history to win the same event four times both indoors and outdoors.
Indoors in 2018, Orji earned the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Women’s Field Athlete of the Year and was the USTFCCCA South Region/National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year. She owns the top eight indoor triple jump marks in collegiate history, including five this year. Orji won her fourth straight NCAA indoor triple jump title and finished second in the long jump, marking her second national runner-up finish. She set an indoor American/collegiate record of 47-8 in to win the Clemson Invitational.
Irby, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., began her career at the indoor Orange & Purple Classic in Clemson, S.C., by winning the 300-meter dash with a time of 36.73 to make her the No. 7 all-time collegiate performer with the No. 10 all-time collegiate performance. By season’s end, she had set the school 200m record (22.55) and the 400m record (50.62) and made history during the journey. Irby won the SEC 200m title after clocking a 22.66 and was runner-up in the 400m. Her conference time in the 400m of 50.62 put her at No. 5 on the all-time collegiate performer list with the sixth-best time in NCAA history by the end of the year. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Irby finished third in both the 200m and 400m to help diversify the Lady Bulldogs’ points enough to secure the team national championship.
Outdoors, Irby won the 200m to complete the SEC indoor/outdoor sweep. She also finished a wind-aided personal-best time of 22.06, which is No. 3 on the all-conditions all-time list. Irby then scored six points for Georgia with a third-place finish in the 200m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. However, it was in the 400m where she made worldwide news by leaving the field behind with the world’s second-fastest time this year (behind former Lady Bulldog Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who has a 49.52). Irby clocked a 49.80, which is only the third sub-50 time in collegiate history and made her the No. 2 all-time collegiate performer with the No. 2 all-time performance. Her finish delivered the Lady Bulldogs’ their first NCAA 400m title.