The Bulldog track and field teams added a half dozen qualifiers on the final day of the NCAA East Prelims, which gave Georgia 12 qualifiers over the three days in Jacksonville, Fla.
Georgia put seven competitors out in five different events on Saturday and six of them finished in the top 12 to earn a ticket to the NCAA Championships. Senior Denzel Comenentia, who recently earned his second straight Southeastern Conference Commissioner’s Trophy for being the league meet’s top scorer, became the first member of the Georgia men’s team in modern history to advance to the NCAA outdoor meet in three individual events. The Amsterdam native won the shot put on Saturday to wrap up his trifecta.
Freshman Titiana Marsh traveled her second furthest distance this year to advance in the triple jump after Comenentia’s performance. Then, veterans Keenon Laine and Darius Carbin made up two of the 12 to get through in the high jump. Next up was senior Michael Nicholls putting down a career-best time in the 110-meter hurdles to keep his season going. Finally, junior Jessica Drop made it two in a row for qualifications to outdoor Nationals in the 5000m.
During Friday’s action, Comenentia (discus), junior Kayla Smith (pole vault) and junior Amber Tanner (800m) all punched their tickets to Nationals.
On Thursday, Comenentia (hammer throw), freshman Sakari Famous (high jump) and sophomore Aliyah Whisby (long jump) all finished in the top nine in their respective events to continue their seasons.
There were 48 competitors from the East Region in every individual event. The NCAA West Prelims were running simultaneously in Sacramento with the same format. The top 12 in each event from both regions advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas, on June 5-8.
A pair of Georgia team members earned the right to skip the Prelims and qualified automatically for the NCAA Championships, giving the Bulldogs a total of 12 individual competitors extending their seasons. Sophomore Johannes Erm (decathlon) and freshman Sterling Lester (heptathlon) are ranked in the top 24 nationally (Erm – fourth; Lester – 22nd) and have been included in the field already.
Comenentia, who is the defending NCAA hammer and shot champion, rounded out the meet by winning the shot by nearly a foot with a mark of 66 feet, 8 inches. This gives him a qualification in the event all four years as he will now aim for his third scoring showing in a row in the shot. With his dominating performance at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium, Comenentia becomes the first member of the Georgia men’s team in modern history to advance to the same meet in three different individual events.
Marsh rebounded from fouling out at SECs to soar 43-7.25 on her first try in the triple jump on Saturday. This mark gave her seventh place at the meet and put the first Lady Bulldog through to NCAAs in the event since the legendary Keturah Orji concluded her career in 2018 with four outdoor titles in the triple.
For the second spring in a row, the Bulldogs managed to qualify a pair in the men’s high jump, including Laine who has now qualified for his fourth NCAA Outdoor Championships. Laine cleared all four of his heights on his first try, including his final mark of 7-2.25. Carbin, who did not reach a height at the meet last year, was clean on his first two heights and then came through with a third attempt clearance at 7-1 to stay in the competition. Next, he equaled his season best of 7-2.25 on his first try to qualify for his first NCAA outdoor meet.
Nicholls matched his season best in the first round of the 110m hurdles and then dropped it .01 in the quarterfinals to advance to his first outdoor Nationals since 2017. He ran a 13.61, which improved his No. 2 spot in the school record books, to be fourth in his heat and ninth overall. This will be Nicholls’ first time at the meet with the Bulldogs after advancing with the University of New Orleans two years ago.
Drop extended her season into June for the second consecutive year in the 5000m after running a comfortable 16:17.47. She was fourth in her semifinal group to automatically qualify and was eighth overall. Drop was a scoring All-American in the event during the Lady Bulldogs’ run to the 2018 NCAA team title and when the team earned runner-up honors at last year’s outdoor Nationals.
The Bulldogs will now rest and train through the next week before starting the final rounds of the NCAA Championships on the University of Texas campus.
Results and recaps from the NCAA East Prelims will be found at georgiadogs.com. News and updates from Georgia’s track and field and cross country teams are always located on Twitter/Instagram at@UGATrack.
Bulldogs Advancing To NCAA Championships From NCAA East Prelims
NameEventMark/Time – Finish
Denzel Comenentia Hammer Throw 232-8 – 3rd
Sakari Famous High Jump 5-8.75 – T-8th
Aliyah Whisby Long Jump 19-11.50 – 9th
Denzel Comenentia Discus 190-10 – 6th
Kayla Smith Pole Vault 13-8.25 – T-1st
Amber Tanner 800m 2:06.14 – 12th
Denzel Comenentia Shot Put 66-8 – 1st
Titiana Marsh Triple Jump 43-7.25 – 7th
Keenon Laine High Jump 7-2.25 – T-1st
Darius Carbin High Jump ^7-2.25 – T-4th
Michael Nicholls 110m Hurdles *13.61 – 9th
Jessica Drop 5000m 16:17.47 – 8th