Thanks to their fifth scorer of the meet, the Georgia men took sixth for the second time in four years at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., on a cool and rainy Friday.
The Bulldogs scored 22.5 points after sophomore Keenon Laine left Hayward Field with a tie for fourth in the high jump. Florida (61.5) captured the team title and Texas A&M (59.5), Virginia (36), Arkansas (33) and Auburn (24) made up the top five team finishers. Eight Southeastern Conference teams were in the top 10.
With the final day of women’s competition arriving on Saturday, the Lady Bulldogs (24.2) hold the overall lead over Kentucky (14), Arizona State (13), Kansas (12) and Arkansas (11.2), among others.
The only women competing on Friday were the heptathletes and the 2014 and 2016 winner, Lady Bulldog senior Kendell Williams, is leading by 191 points through four events with 3,743 points.
Georgia now has nine scorers through three days. On Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs finished first and second in the long jump with redshirt freshman Kate Hall winning her first title and junior Keturah Orji reaching 22 feet for the first time in her career. True freshman Beatrice Llano unloaded a career-long hammer throw toss to take third and redshirt freshman Kayla Smith added .20 points to her team’s total by tying for eighth in the pole vault.
Senior Devon Williams scored the second-highest decathlon point total of his career on Thursday to finish second in the only men’s event of the day.
On Wednesday, sophomore Denzel Comenentia complemented his fifth-place finish in the hammer throw with another fifth-place showing in the shot put. His senior teammate, Alex Poursanidis, wrapped up his four years with the Bulldogs by earning an expected First Team All-America certificate with a seventh-place finish in the hammer.
“We ended up in sixth, which is a little lower than what we anticipated,” said head coach Petros Kyprianou. “But we dealt with some injuries all year long and had a little trouble putting it together in these conditions and we still managed to put more than 20 points up and finish in the top six. I am proud of the guys and Keenon finished in the top four even though I think he had a shot to win today. If we are disappointed with a sixth place then I think the program is headed in the right direction. Now we have to focus on the women (Saturday) and see where we can go.”
Laine, a sophomore transfer from Versailles, Ky., soared over the bar at 6 feet, 9 ¾ inches on his first try and then safely cleared 6-11.75 on his first attempt. This was enough to tie him with South Carolina’s Tye Williams for fourth place for 4.5 points. Laine tied for eighth in the 2016 competition in Western Kentucky’s uniform with a 7-2.50 clearance.
This marks the Bulldogs’ first outdoor All-American in the men’s high jump since Ryan Sheppard earned a certificate in 2001. Laine completes his first outdoor season with Georgia as an All-American and as the SEC champion with a 7-4.50 clearance.
Eyeing her seventh overall NCAA title and third in the heptathlon, Williams opened by winning the 100-meter hurdles with a combined event season-best time of 12.95 for her first 1,132 points. Williams, who earned runner-up honors in the open hurdles at the SEC Championships with a 12.92, set a collegiate best at the 2016 NCAA meet with a 12.83 and then won the Olympic Trials hep 100m hurdles with a 12.99 last summer.
Williams extended her win streak to two after passing over the high jump bar at 5-11.25, which was her fifth clearance of the competition. The Marietta, Ga., native scored 991 points and pushed her lead to 138 points over Arkansas’ Taliyah Brooks.
Williams stuck a shot put throw of 38-10.25 between two fouls to bulk her total up 651 points. She managed to extend her lead over the new second place, Kansas State’s Nina Schultz, by 164 points and then had more than three hours before the 200m arrived.
In the 200m, Williams and her heat ran into a 3.1 headwind and was second overall with a 24.12 for 969 points. That finale helped boost her into a 191-point lead over Arkansas’ Payton Stumbaugh going into day two.
Grauvogel fired out of the starting blocks in the hep’s 100m hurdles with a career-best time of 13.53 to take fourth for 1,046 points. This time trimmed .02 seconds off her SEC finish, where she was also fourth in the event.
Grauvogel entered the high jump at 5-0.50 and had three straight misses to bow out. However, she returned in the shot put and put her only fair throw out 38-8.75 for 648 points. Grauvogel did not start the final event of the day (200m).
The heptathletes crank up the final three events of the heptathlon (long jump, javelin, 800m) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET. Juniors Mady Fagan and Tatiana Gusin start the open events in the high jump at 6 p.m. Junior Keturah Orji also triple jumps at 6:40 p.m. on the meet’s final day.