Georgia sophomore Karl Saluri earned an Olympic invitation while winning the Bulldog Decathlon to highlight UGA’s combined events competition on Thursday.
Saluri, a native of Kuimetsa, Estonia, punched his ticket to the Olympic Games in Rio this summer after obliterating his personal best in the decathlon with 8,108 points. Not only did Saluri, who redshirted for the Bulldogs in 2015 after transferring in from New Orleans, topped Wisconsin’s Zach Ziemek by 61 points for the win, but he also took control of the NCAA lead and shot to No. 3 in the school record books. Ziemek, who finished third, was the 2016 NCAA indoor heptathlon champion.
“It’s hard to believe that I actually scored that many points right now,” said Saluri. “Just a year ago, I wasn’t even sure if I could compete this year. It’s an unbelievable feeling and it’s going to take a few days to understand what I just did.”
Saluri’s training partner, junior Devon Williams, vaulted to third on the current national list behind Ziemek and Saluri and fifth on the Bulldog all-time top-10 list with his performance. Williams scored 7,928 points, which gave him the U.S. Olympic Trials standard of at least 7,900 points, and earned himself a spot in Eugene, Ore.
Junior Kendell Williams left the facility with the collegiate victory and second place overall in the heptathlon after scoring the NCAA’s third-best score this year. The Marietta, Ga., native went into the final event tied with former Lady Bulldog Quintunya Chapman, who also captured the 2015 title, at 5,179 points.
After the 800m, Williams ended up with 5,957 points to Chapman’s 6,039. Chapman’s tally ranks third on the current world list and leads for U.S. competitors.
“This was simply a great day for our combined events program,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou, who has now seen a Georgia decathlete win the Bulldog Decathlon with at least 8,100 points for four consecutive years. “The results in both the heptathlon and decathlon continued our elite multi-events tradition here in Athens. Our program is breeding student-athletes in the combined events and we were glad to have more success on our home track.
“Karl epitomized our expectations for our combined events people over the last two days. He showed that he will be carrying the torch since Garrett Scantling is done and Maicel Uibo will complete his career this season. Karl is truly our next leader. His teammate, Devon Williams, also had a monster (personal record) and showed his consistency and his resiliency. The future is bright with these two in the coming years.
“For the women, Quintunya Chapman came back for her first meet of the year as a former Lady Bulldog and scored over 6,000 points for the third time. That is quite an accomplishment. And Kendell did exactly what we wanted her to accomplish this week. She got an NCAA qualifying score and set herself up for another big year in the heptathlon.”
This completed the combined events portion of the week at the Spec Towns Track. On Friday afternoon, the Spec Towns Invitational begins at 2 p.m. with the men’s discus.
The meet continues on Saturday and will feature appearances by Herschel Walker and Gwen Torrence as the Bulldogs named the men’s 100-meter dash and the women’s 200m, respectively, after the Georgia legends.
In the decathlon, Saluri scored 839 points and slipped to second after finishing 11th in the 110m hurdles, which was his first event on Thursday. He ran a 15.09 as Williams edged ahead of him in the overall standings.
Saluri hovered around the mid-130s on his first two attempts in the discus before letting go of a 143 foot, 8 inch effort on his final try. This finish earned him fourth place in the event and 742 more points.
In the eighth event of the day, Saluri reached 16-2.75 to score 895 points and tie for fifth in the event. This performance in the pole vault elevated Saluri to second place as he continued his first decathlon with the Bulldogs.
Saluri improved on his second and third throws in the javelin and finished third for 708 points, which nestled him into second place. His top effort traveled 190-3.
Needing a 4:28.50 to earn his shot at the Olympic Games, Saluri finished second in the 1500m after running a 4:27.43. This scored Saluri his final 762 points, which pushed him past the 8,100-point barrier, and gave the Bulldogs two Estonian Olympians (Maicel Uibo).
Devon Williams started his day with a personal-best time in the 110m hurdles for 982 points. Williams, who ran a 14.07 to win this race at last year’s Bulldog Decathlon and who came in with a personal record of 13.98 coming into Thursday, sped to a 13.94 to move into the top 25 nationally in the event. This improved his No. 7 spot in the school record books.
Williams bounced back from an opening foul in the discus to post his fourth personal best of the meet. He finished sixth in the discus for 687 points after his last throw measured 134-10. Williams was in third place after this performance.
A fifth personal record came for Williams when the pole vault arrived. Coming in with marks only under 15 feet, Williams soared over the bar at 15-3 to score 804 points and take ninth in the event to maintain his third-place spot.
Williams managed a sixth-place finish in the javelin with more than a 20-foot personal best. He started with a mark of 182-3 and that scored the Marietta, Ga., native 671 points and put him in third place going into the 10th and final event.
The magic time for Williams to be in the U.S. Olympic Trials in early July was 4:40.00 in the 1500m. He responded with a personal-best time of 4:37.37 to take fourth in the race for 697 points. Williams held onto third place with the most points in his career by nearly 600 points.
Uibo, who was training through the meet, competed in his fourth event of the decathlon with the 110m hurdles and was the second collegiate finisher (third overall) with a personal-best time of 14.61.
In the discus, Uibo overcame two fouls to begin the competition and earned runner-up honors. He reached 149-4 in his fifth event of the two-day decathlon.
Having skipped the long and high jumps on day one, Uibo dodged fouling out at 15-7 in the pole vault and continued on to a career-best effort. After he hit the height mentioned above on his third and final attempt, Uibo then went on to clear 17-2.75 on his first try, which is tied for seventh in the school record books, to win the pole vault.
Uibo tossed a single attempt in the javelin and then paced Saluri in the 1500m to complete his two-day training session.
During the heptathlon, Kendell Williams opened with a long jump mark of 20-0.50 and that finished as her top mark of the day for 883 points. Williams, who finished fourth in the event, had a big foul to end her series as she held onto her overall lead.
Starting with a foul, Williams reached 116-6 on her second try in the javelin versus gusting winds to take fourth in the event. She earned 581 points to Chapman’s 711 in the sixth of seven events after her former teammate won the javelin (138-8).
Williams completed her seven events by clocking a 2:23.36 in the 800m. This finish gave Williams 778 points as she shot to third on the current NCAA performance list with her final score. Chapman locked down her second straight victory at the Bulldog Heptathlon by winning the 800m with a 2:17.35.
Full stats and recaps from the Bulldog Decathlon/Heptathlon will be posted at georgiadogs.com.
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