The Bulldogs locked down another pair of titles to pace the scoring during the final day of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday.
Record-breaking sophomore Keturah Orji left the field behind for the triple jump crown while sophomore Maddy Fagan won her first career conference title in the high jump.
These wins complemented Ashinia Miller’s gold medal in the men’s shot put on Friday.
The Georgia men completed the meet with 58 points for seventh place while the Lady Bulldogs took eighth place with 59 points. The Arkansas women (126.75) and men (121) swept the team race.
“It was a good weekend for us in Tuscaloosa and the top quality team members, the ones we are banking on to represent us, stepped up for us as always,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “We had three SEC champions, including a 1-2 finish in the men’s shot put which was great. In the decathlon, Maicel Uibo highlighted the top competition in SEC history by scoring 8,300 points again and I am also really proud of Devon Williams for hitting an Olympic standard and joining his sister in the quest for Rio qualification. Mady Fagan did an extremely good job by stepping up to win and continue our tradition in the high jump.
“Obviously, the highlight of the meet was Keturah Orji winning the triple jump with a mark that matches the best in collegiate history and one that is one of the best in the world. Denzel (Comenentia) did an amazing job by scoring in three different events and showing the world that Georgia is and will be a powerhouse in the field events. Our young athletes did a great job of competing and we are earning some respect on the track. Christian Harrison exceeded expectations in a very, very touch 800 field and elevated himself near the top of the NCAA list. I’m proud of these teams and we will become a much stronger unit.”
Orji set the tone with an opening triple jump mark of 46 feet and progressed to a monstrous wind-aided school record of 47-10.75 to defend her league outdoor title. This was the Lady Bulldogs’ seventh SEC championship in the event (first since Maria Augutis accomplished the feat in Athens in 2011). With Orji’s two best legal marks on Saturday, Orji now owns the fifth, sixth-, 10th- and 11th-best collegiate efforts in history.
Orji, who has now won the triple jump at the last four consecutive SEC meets, recorded an opening mark of 46 feet, which would have won the competition by a foot. Following a second attempt foul, Orji traveled the fifth-farthest distance in collegiate history (46-6.75) on her third try.
The Mount Olive, N.J., native fouled again on her fifth effort before taking off for a jump of 47-10.75 that had a 2.9 wind reading (legal is 2.0 or below). Although the wind caused it not to overtake the current collegiate record of 46-9, it did match the all-time, all-conditions collegiate best set by Stanford’s Erica McClain in 2008.
“I am really excited because I never expected to jump this far this early in my season,” said Orji, who also won this year’s NCAA indoor crown and last year’s national outdoor championship. “I actually ended up crying when I saw the distance on the board. I am always trying to score as many points as I can since we don’t have as many people in as many events so this felt great. As we get to Regionals and Nationals, I want to stay consistent at this distance and not just get this mark once.”
Like Orji, freshman Aliyah Johnson also used a personal record to score for the Lady Bulldogs in the triple jump. Starting with a career best 42-1.25 early in her series, Johnson finished with a top effort of 42-8.25 to finish sixth and take over the ninth spot in the Georgia record books.
Perfect through three rounds in the high jump, Fagan gave the Lady Bulldogs’ their 12th outdoor high jump title in history and third in the last four years. The Los Gatos, Calif., native was the SEC indoor runner-up earlier this year.
Fagan, who did not compete at the 2015 SEC outdoor meet as a freshman, came into the high jump at 5-8.75 and cleared that height and 5-10.75 on her first attempts. The 2016 Second Team All-American indoors then sailed over the bar at her winning height of 6-0.50 after Alabama freshman Claire Orcel had two misses at both 5-10.75 and 6-0.50.
“It’s a huge relief to get this title and I am just glad all of my hard work is paying off,” said Fagan, who joins former Bulldog Levern Spencer as SEC high jump champions in Tuscaloosa after Spencer did it in 2007. “It feels amazing because people say track and field is an individual sport. But what motivates us to do well is our team and so to give 10 points to them feels great. At Regionals I want to compete and do what I need to do to get through to Nationals. Then I want to go to Nationals, score, compete and be level-headed.”
Also in the high jump, senior Leontia Kallenou finished fourth and freshman Mary Terry equaled her personal best to take 11th. Kallenou, a three-time NCAA and SEC champion, cleared 5-10.75 on her third and final try. Terry had a second attempt clearance at 5-7 during her first SEC meet.
Training through the meet in preparation for the NCAA’s heptathlon, junior Kendell Williams managed a runner-up finish in the 100-meter hurdle finals. Williams started the weekend with a 12.96 time in the prelims and followed that up with a 13.00 to take second on Saturday. She came into the weekend ranked fifth nationally in the heptathlon.
Leaving the track with the second fastest 800m time in school history, Harrison ran a blistering 1:46.69 to finish fourth in the finals. The Glenarden, Md., native, who officially graduated on Friday, moved from the back of the pack into the top five on the second lap and then stayed with the front four in the final straightaway. This is the fastest time for the Bulldogs since Aaron Evans ran a school record 1:46.26 in 2010 and would have ranked as a top-10 time nationally this year going into the weekend.
True freshman Denzel Comenentia scored on each of the three days and finished as the team’s top scorer with 15 points following Saturday’s discus battle. He opened with a mark of 179-9 and finished sixth in the competition. Comenentia also finished second in the shot put on Saturday and fifth in the hammer on Friday.
During the meet’s final event, the Bulldog foursome registered a season-best 4x400m relay time to finish sixth for three points. Maurice Freeman, Reggie Glover, Jeramey Hampton and Ayrian Evans ran a 3:06.09
Earlier in the afternoon, Jamario Calhoun, Raytez Jenkins, Glover and Freeman combined to clock a season-best time of 39.78 to score another point for the Bulldog men in the 4x100m relay. This eighth-place finish came as the Bulldogs won the opening heat and finished with a faster time than two of the teams in the race’s second group.
Also of note, true freshman Hayden Merrick posted a personal-best discus toss of 158-9 on her third try to make the finals and then finished ninth overall with another career best of 165-8. This mark is ranked fifth on Georgia’s all-time top-10 list and the best for the Lady Bulldogs since 2012.
Senior Brooke Koblitz also picked up her second personal record of the meet after closing out her collegiate career with a 25th-place finish in the 5000m (17:17.36).
The Bulldogs will train through next weekend before traveling to the NCAA East Prelims in Jacksonville for the NCAA Championships qualifying meet on May 26-28.