The Lady Bulldogs fell one point shy of sweeping indoor and outdoor nationals to take second at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.
The Georgia women used seven scorers to score 52 points and finish a point behind Southern California (53) for the title. The Trojans won the final 4×400-meter relay to clinch the one-point victory after Oregon accomplished the same feat last year to top the Lady Bulldogs by 1.8 points. Stanford (51), Kentucky (46) and Florida (42) rounded out the top five on the women’s side this year.
This is the first time in meet history that the top three placing teams finished within two points of each other.
“It was bittersweet for the women today,” said head coach Petros Kyprianou. “It’s kind of déjà vu from last year after losing to Oregon by 1.8 points last year and USC this year by one point in the final relay. But USC did a fantastic job racing and finishing that 4×400 very strongly. I am proud of our ladies showing consistency and resiliency. We had some mishaps but everyone tried their best and that’s all that really matters.
“I am proud to say our program is officially the best in the country as far as the numbers go since we finished first, first, second and third at the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets and scored a combined 104 points at this year’s outdoor meet. Now it’s time to rejuvenate and get back to business.”
The Bulldog men captured their first national team track and field title with 52 points on Friday. The men finished 10 points ahead of the nearest competitor (Florida – 42) and Houston (35), USC (34), Alabama (33) and Texas Tech (33) rounded out the top five.
Individually, junior Denzel Comenentia was the meet’s top scorer on the men’s side (20) while senior Keturah Orji tied for top scoring honors for the women after also scoring 20 with her pair of titles.
The Lady Bulldogs finished with five scorers on Saturday. Freshman Lynna Irby left her mark on the Hayward Field track by becoming the second-fastest collegian to win the 400m with only the third sub-50 second race in NCAA history. Her time of 49.80 also ranks No. 2 on the current world list and gives Georgia its first title of this kind.
Irby returned to the track a short time later and took third in the 200m on a soggy track. She provided Georgia with 16 points behind Orji’s team-high tally of 20.
Orji only took three attempts in the triple jump and chalked up her third outdoor title in the event and seventh triple jump title overall. She also becomes the first NCAA long and triple jumper to win both championships in the same season since Florida State’s Kim Williams in 2009.
Sophomore Louisa Grauvogel improved her No. 3 spot in the Lady Bulldog record books after registering three personal bests to take second in the heptathlon with 6,074 points. She trailed only Wisconsin’s Georgia Ellenwood by 72 points when the seventh and final event was complete.
Senior Tatiana Gusin went over the high jump bar at 5-10 in the driving rain on her second attempt to finish seventh in her collegiate finale. She completes her career as a six-time scoring All-American in the event.
In her first NCAA outdoor action, the 2017 cross country All-American and 2018 indoor All-American sophomore Jessica Drop gutted out a 15:46.39 to take seventh in the 5000m and score Georgia’s final points of the meet.
Eight Bulldog scorers for the men, including Comenentia who swept the hammer throw and shot put, propelled the Georgia men to UGA’s first national championship on the men’s side since men’s tennis in 2008 and the 14th crown overall for the Georgia men.
Senior Cejhae Greene (100m – 7th), junior Keenon Laine (high jump – 3rd), freshman Antonios Merlos (high jump – 5th), junior Kendal Williams (200m – 3rd), senior Karl Saluri (decathlon – 2nd) and freshman Johannes Erm (decathlon – 3rd) put together the necessary points to bring the grandest of all trophies home to Athens.
Orji closed out one of the most impressive careers in collegiate history for any sport. The collegiate record holder traveled 46-0.75 on her second attempt and then passed on three out of her last four jumps to walk away with the win. With her victory, Orji becomes the first women’s competitor to win four NCAA outdoor triple jump titles.
Orji is the fifth in meet history to sweep a single event during her career. Adding the long jump title as well, Orji is only the third in meet history to record five individual event crowns in her career. Combining those outdoor titles with three indoor triple jump top honors, Orji is the most decorated DI women’s field event athlete with eight individual championships to her credit.
Irby, an Indianapolis, Ind., native, shot out of the 400m starting blocks and quickly made up the stagger on the neighboring lane. She turned the final curve and never came close to relinquishing her lead to USC’s Kendall Ellis, who was formerly No. 2 on the all-time collegiate list with a 49.99 earlier this season. 2016 Olympic gold medalist, Shaunae Miller was the last Lady Bulldog to score after taking second at the 2013 meet.
In a 200m race that had only .16 between the first and third-place finishers, Irby was the top freshman finisher after crossing the finish line in 22.92. She is the first Georgia woman to earn First Team All-America honors in the 200m since Debbie Ferguson was the runner-up in 1999. Ferguson was also the 1998 NCAA champion.
Irby is the first since 1989 (and the first freshman overall) to score 16 or more points in attempting the 200m/400m double. Five women in the 80s did the same.
Training her first season in 2017 with three-time NCAA champion Kendell Williams, Grauvogel scored for the first time in the outdoor combined events with her second straight score over 6,000 points. She advanced to the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships but had to pull out of competition with an injury. Grauvogel was fifth in the pentathlon at this year’s indoor Nationals.
Grauvogel began her three jump series with a long jump mark of 18-7.25 and then finished with an 18-8.75. This 765 points put her in second place by 16 points behind Ellenwood.
The third personal record of the meet came from Grauvogel in the javelin. Starting with a respectable mark of 139-7, she surpassed her former career best with a throw of 142-8 on her third attempt. Grauvogel was third in the javelin and second overall, trailing Ellenwood by 15.
In the final event of her second collegiate season, Grauvogel ran a 2:19.92 to take 10th in the 800m and managed to stay 241 points in front of the third-place overall finisher. Ellenwood was sixth in the 800m with a 2:15.76 to take sixth after two laps and clinch her first hep victory.
Passing at 5-8, Gusin entered the competition at 5-10 and went over the bar on her second try. This was good enough to give her a seventh-place finish in a competition that was won at 5-11.50. Gusin was the NCAA runner-up at both the 2017 indoor and outdoor meets as well as at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Drop stayed with the lead pack throughout the 5000m laps and came away with a scoring spot in her first collegiate trip to Eugene. She ran a 15:46.39 to finish just .08 from the sixth-place finisher. A seventh-place finish by Erin Jones at the 1997 NCAA meet is the last time a Lady Bulldog earned scoring All-American honors in the event.