Georgia sophomore Johannes Erm not only won his first national decathlon crown but also hit the Olympic standard score during a day two of the NCAA Outdoor Championships that featured a number of lengthy weather delays in Austin, Texas, on Thursday.
Erm, a native of Tallinn, Estonia, bettered his third-place finish at Nationals last year to score a personal record 8,352 points to top the nearest competitor, Stanford’s Harrison Williams, by 342 points. Achieving his goal of hitting the 2020 Olympic standard of 8,350, Erm posted five personal bests and another three season bests to move to second in the Bulldog record books by only four points (8,356, Maicel Uibo, 2015 NCAA Championships).
Since 2011, the Bulldogs have now had 11 scoring First Team All-Americans (top-eight finishers) in the decathlon, including three NCAA champions, two runner-up finishers and a duo of bronze medalists in the event.
The Bulldogs are currently in second place in the team standings with 22 points and Mississippi State’s 24 points from the javelin has the SEC Western Division Bulldogs in the lead. BYU is currently third with 21 points thanks to their showing in the 10,000 meters.
On the women’s side, sophomore Aliyah Whisby complemented her scoring showing in the pentathlon at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships with an eighth-place finish in the outdoor long jump to tally the Lady Bulldogs first points of the meet.
Going into Friday’s action, the Georgia women are tied for 30thwith a point while Arkansas (15) has taken an early lead and Washington and Arizona State are tied for second with 12 points.
Senior Denzel Comenentia was the runner-up in the shot put and was fifth in the hammer throw to give the Bulldog men 12 points on the first day of the meet at Myers Stadium. Other than Thursday’s decathlon, the men’s portion of the meet will start back up on Friday.
“That was a special performance by Johannes on a day that was delayed over and over with bad weather,” said head coach Petros Kyprianou. “Anytime you win an NCAA title and hit an Olympic standard score by going through what he did today is an incredible accomplishment. He has wanted to continue the legacy that the decathletes before him at Georgia had created and now he’s doing that.
“Aliyah also scored a point for our women in the long jump with a performance that she is not satisfied with. But this was her first NCAA outdoor meet with us and I look forward to watching her develop. We wrap up the men’s competitions on Friday so we are hoping the high jump and discus can add to the total we have already accumulated.”
On Friday, freshman Sterling Lester will complete four of seven events in the heptathlon (100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m) starting at 3:30 p.m. ET. Four other Bulldog men are slated to compete in a combined three events, starting with senior Keenon Laine and junior Darius Carbin in the high jump at 8 p.m.
In the decathlon, Erm became the No. 6 all-time collegiate performer with the No. 10 all-time collegiate performance with a score that left the rest of the field far behind.
While Erm’s time in the 110m hurdles was his first event in six that he did not set a season or career best, he did take second when he crossed the line on Thursday with the second-best time of his career to add 934 points. Erm clocked a 14.32, which trails only his 14.19 from the Bulldog Decathlon earlier this year, and distanced himself 108 points from Williams in the overall standings.
Erm registered his third personal record of the meet and six performance that was at least a season best to win the discus. He lifted the implement 145 feet, 9 inches on his second try, going nine inches farther than his second-place performance in the event at the 2018 meet. Erm’s 755 points kept in first overall with the pole vault up next.
Following approximately a two-hour thunderstorm delay, Erm warmed up in the pole vault and cleared 16 feet for the third time in his career. Erm, who hit 15-9.25 at the meet last year and reached a personal best 16-6.75 at the 2019 Bulldog Decathlon, reached the second-best height of his career at 16-5.25 on his first try to tally 913 points.
Erm opened the javelin with a season-best effort of 179-10 and then secured his fourth personal record of the meet on his next throw. He lifted the javelin 184-7, topping his previous best of 182-1 set last year, on his second try to finish eighth in the event with 682 points. This put Erm in the lead by 306 points with just the final race remaining in his 10-event slate.
With the score calculated of what he had to run to hit the Olympic standard, Erm took control of the 1500m at the 200m mark and never looked back. He walked way from the track with his fifth personal best of the meet and a victory in the event at 4:33.38 after arriving at the facility nearly 12 hours earlier.
Whisby, who last competed at outdoor Nationals last year as a heptathlete for Kennesaw State, earned an expected First Team All-America certificate in the long jump with an eighth-place finish. Posting three marks of 20-1 or better to start her series, Whisby improved to 21-0 on her fourth try and held on for a point to put the Lady Bulldogs on the scoreboard.
Junior Amber Tanner made her debut at outdoor Nationals and completed the 800m semifinal in 18thplace overall. Cutting in during the first lap in fifth, she crossed the 400m mark in fourth place in the middle of a tight pack. Tanner slipped to eighth in her heat on the second lap and moved to seventh in the final straightaway.
During her second appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, junior Kayla Smith cleared 13-3.50 on her first attempt in the pole vault and then could not get over the bar at 13-9.25. This left her with a tie for 19thplace.