The Bulldog track and field teams won two titles, set a pair of meet records and established another school record to highlight the opening day of the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday.
With the second and final day coming on Saturday, the Georgia women are leading with 25 points while the Bulldog men stand fifth (16). Arkansas (42) is in the early lead on the men’s side.
Up by only 18 points going into the pentathlon’s final event, junior Kendell Williams ran away from Arkansas’ Taliyah Brooks in the 800 meters and clinched her second consecutive SEC pentathlon title.
Senior Ashinia Miller locked down the second conference crown of the meet for Georgia (first for the men) by winning his first SEC shot put title with a season-best effort.
In addition, junior Devon Williams (long jump) and sophomore Karl Saluri (60m) helped highlight the first day of action by setting meet records during the first four events of the heptathlon while senior Chanice Porter (long jump) bettered her own school record in the open long jump.
“I thought we had a really good first day, proving where our strengths lie on these teams,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “We always have our best day on day one and I am proud of the way many of our people answered the bell. In the multi-events and meets in general, it’s not the way you start but how you finish. And Kendell Williams proved that today by closing hard in the 800. I am proud of her effort. Our goal is to try and get 10 points and move on and that’s just what she did.
“I was also extremely proud of Ashinia Miller in the shot put. He is a guy who works his tail off and had never quite put together a complete Championship meet until today. We named him a captain at the beginning of this year and he is proving to be a true leader.
“The competitiveness of this league was very evident in the women’s long jump and I am pleased the way Chanice Porter and Keturah Orji answered the challenge. What was scoring at Nationals got fifth place at the SEC meet this year so it was great to have Porter and Orji finish in the top four.
“We now have to continue the momentum that we started today and carry it into (Saturday’s) events. I am looking to forward to see how we close this meet out with some of our strongest events.”
Day two on Saturday kicks off with the final three events of the heptathlon (60m hurdles, pole vault, 1000m) at 12 p.m. ET while the open events, starting with the men’s weight throw, have a scheduled start time of 2 p.m.
The SEC Championships will be streamed live on SEC Network + Saturday from 3:55 p.m.-8:30 p.m. The meet will also air as part of a two-hour show on ESPN on Sunday at 7 p.m. The broadcast talent includes Dwight Stones, Larry Rawson and John Anderson.
Needing to stay within one second of Brooks in the pentathlon’s final event, the 800, Kendell Williams made the decision on her third of four laps to pass Brooks after being boxed in early. Williams took off around the curve and distanced herself from Brooks (2:19.91) by two seconds to finish third overall in the race with a 2:17.98.
This marked just the fourth SEC pentathlon title for the Lady Bulldogs as Williams scored 4,420 to Brooks’ 4,376. The Marietta, Ga., native has now won three SEC crowns overall after also winning the 2014 SEC heptathlon title outdoors.
Graduate transfer Xenia Rahn added two points for Georgia with a seventh-place finish in the pentathlon. Rahn scored 4,139 and was just nine points behind the sixth-place finisher in her second pentathlon for the Lady Bulldogs since transferring from North Carolina.
Williams started the day in third place after matching her season best in the 60 hurdles. She clocked an 8.26, which is exactly what she ran in this facility earlier this year at the Razorback Invitational, for 1,070 points.
Williams came back from a third attempt clearance at 5-8.75 in the high jump and then went over the bar at 5-10 on her first try. She scored 953 points with the performance and was in third place headed into the shot put.
Finishing with a pair of fouls, Williams opened with a throw of 37-1.75 to take eighth in the shot put. This mark scored her 616 points.
Williams registered nearly matching marks in the long jump to win the event and move into the overall lead going into the 800m. She responded to an opening mark of 20-6.25 with a jump of 20-6.50 to score 930 points.
Rahn equaled her season-best time in the open 60m hurdles and improved her one time racing in the pentathlon’s hurdles this year with an 8.55. Her finish gave her 11th in the opening event with 1,006 points.
Rahn was pushed to her final attempt at 5-6.50 and cleared the height for seventh place in the event. Rahn scored 842 points as she prepared to go into the shot put.
Bouncing back from a first attempt foul, Rahn completed her three-throw series with a mark of 41-0.25 for fifth. She added 694 points to move into a scoring spot.
Rahn stayed consistent throughout her long jump series and topped out at 19-6.75. This third attempt mark scored her 837 points and gave her fifth place in the event.
To wrap up her last event, Rahn ran the fastest time of her short Georgia career with a 2:17.98 for 851 points and sixth place in the final race.
Miller, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, improved on his second-place from 2015 to win the Bulldogs their first SEC men’s title in the event since Brent Noon captured three in a row from 1993-95. Miller moved from No. 5 to No. 4 on the national list with the second-best meet of his career.
Reaching 58-1 on his opening throw, Miller never fell below 62-8 on his next four throws before fouling on his sixth attempt. He worked his way up to 65-9.75, which gave Miller a three and a half foot edge on the nearest competitor.
Also in the shot put, freshman Denzel Comenentia managed a fourth-place finish after his longest attempt measured 60-7.25.
The Lady Bulldogs combined to score 13 points in the long jump thanks to second- and fourth-place finishes. Porter, who tied Hyleas Fountain’s school record mark of 21-7.25 in the Arkansas facility earlier this year, traveled a career-best distance of 21-9.50 to earn runner-up honors and again rewrite the UGA record books. This also improved her No. 3 placing on the national list.
Sophomore Keturah Orji matched her personal record in the long jump for fourth-place honors. Orji worked up to a third effort of 21-4.25, which keeps her at No. 5 on the school’s all-time list and sixth on the national list.
During the second to last event of the night, senior Zack Sims completed the 3000m with a personal-record time of 8:20.24 to finish eighth and score a point for the Bulldogs.
In the heptathlon, senior Garrett Scantling is in second place by just 22 points going into the second and final day with 3,402 points. Saluri (3,202) and Devon Williams (3,166) are in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Saluri blazed to the fastest time of his career in the 60 (6.87) to run away with the event one victory with an SEC Championships meet record. His finish bettered the 6.88 clocked by Tennessee’s Jangy Addy at the 2008 league meet. Saluri scored 929 during the start of only his second heptathlon with the Bulldogs after redshirting in 2015 and competing for the University of New Orleans in 2014.
Saluri started the long jump with a career-best effort of 24-.075 on his opening attempt. He finished second behind Williams after scoring 893 points.
Saluri managed a fourth-place finish in the shot put with a top throw of 45-5 for 719 points.
During the high jump, Saluri finished ninth with the best height of his career for 661 points. He cleared 6-0.50 on his second try to stay 36 points ahead of Williams going into day two.
In what is the third heptathlon of his season, Devon Williams established a fresh personal best in the 60 to start the competition in second place. The Marietta native ran a 6.98 to score 889 points.
Williams saved one of his career’s top performances for the long jump. Following an opening foul, he improved on his 24-3 second attempt to a career-best mark of 25-3.25 to win by more than a foot. Williams’ mark topped the former SEC meet record mark of 24-11.25 (LSU’s Alleyne Lett, 2005) and scored him 985 points in the competition. This was the best mark for a Bulldog since NFL great Champ Bailey set a school record of 25-10.75 at the 1998 SEC Championships.
Williams had only a single fair attempt in the shot put of 36-5 to score 552 points.
To conclude the day, Williams won his group and was fourth overall thanks to a the best performance of his career in the high jump. With only two misses in his series before tries at 6-5, Williams went over the bar at 6-4 for 740 points.
Scantling began his seven events in fifth place with 879 points. Coming in with a season-best 60m mark to of 6.99, he ran a 7.01.
Similar to WilHad toliams, Scantling started his long jump series with a foul. He worked up to a jump of 23-2 and finished the heptathlon’s second event with 828.
Scantling posted the best series of his career in the shot put, capping his three throws with a winning toss of 52-2 for 845 points. He also had throws of 51-0.25 and 51-1.50 to start the competition.
In the heptathlon’s fourth event of the day, Scantling posted a season-best effort of 6-8.75 on a first attempt clearance to finish second in the event. His performance earned him 850 points and put him in second place overall for the day.
During the prelim rounds, senior Kisean Smith completed his four laps of the 800m with the second-fastest time of his career (1:48.70) to finish just one spot out of qualifying for the finals in ninth.
Two spots behind Smith was senior Christian Harrison, who clocked a personal-record time of 1:49.01 for 11th place and improved his No. 7 spot in the school record books. A third Bulldog, true freshman Jeramey Hampton, took over the No. 8 spot on the school’s all-time top-10 list and finished 14th with a 1:49.51.
Another pair of Bulldogs left the Randal Tyson Track Center with top-10 all-time marks in the 200. Junior Maurice Freeman was second in the fifth heat and 13th overall with a 21.21. which ranks No. 6 in school history. One spot behind Freeman was sophomore Raytez Jenkins, who moved to No. 7 on the all-time list with a 21.22.
On the women’s side, sophomore Devon Artis completed her first 800m and ended up 18th in the prelims with a 2;13.08, which is a season best for UGA.
In the 60m prelims, sophomore Katie Stone dropped her career best to 7.50 and finished seventh in her heat and 24th overall. Stone moved to within .01 of earning a spot in the school’s all-time top-10 list.
During her final SEC Indoor Championships, senior Brooke Koblitz registered a career-best mile time of 4:53.26 to take 14th in the prelims, which was four spots out of advancing.
Sophomore Bryan Kamau finished three spots out of qualifying for the mile finals with a 4:11.46. In the women’s 400m, senior Ashley Henry ran the second-fastest time of her career (54.00) wind up 15th in the prelims.