Georgia sophomore Keturah Orji had a historical showing in the triple jump to start her outdoor season during drizzling rain on the opening day of the Virginia Challenge on Friday.
Orji (OR-gee, sounds like the letter ‘g’), a native of Mount Olive, N.J., made her season debut and quickly reminded the nation who is the most dominant triple jumper. The 2016 NCAA indoor champion and the defending 2015 NCAA outdoor winner traveled 46 feet, 3 ¼ inches on her first try in the Invite competition. This immediately gave her the national lead by two and a half feet, produced Orji’s third-best meet of her outdoor career and shot her to No. 3 on the current world list.
Orji, who had a mark of 45-7 on her third try before passing three times, returned on her second attempt to improve her season best to 46-3.50 and ended up winning by nearly four feet. Orji’s first two jumps gave her the ninth- and 10th-best jumps in collegiate history. She owns three of the top 10 marks in NCAA history, including her winning effort of 46-5.25 at last year’s Nationals.
“I thought we had a pretty good showing on a different track in a different setting,” said Bulldog head coach Petros Kyprianou. “Keturah was definitely the highlight of our day since she has now become consistent around the performance she had today. I thought Shelby (Ashe) did pretty well developing a rhythm in a slippery ring and Asianna (Covington) is gradually improving while she stays healthy. Maurice (Freeman) also had to deal with the wet conditions and raced well to have another consistently fast time. The 800-meter guys also raced smartly and are in good position going into SECs. Everyone stayed focused today and we will be aiming for more NCAA Regional marks on Saturday.”
Also in the women’s triple jump, freshman Aliyah Johnson worked up to a personal-best mark of 41-10.75 for fourth-place honors.
Another competitor ranked in the top 10 nationally, junior Maurice Freeman lined up in the 400-meter dash and posted the second-best time of his career (46.59) to grab the top collegiate finish (second overall). Freeman’s 45.77 registered earlier this year remains No. 5 on the national list.
Junior Asianna Covington launched her opening toss in the hammer throw’s second group a season-best mark of 192-8. This attempt, which was her longest in the last two years, gave her a third-place overall finish and was only seven inches from matching her personal record set at the 2014 Mt. SAC Relays.
Freshman Hayden Merrick finished three spots shy of advancing to the hammer finals. However, the Johns Creek, Ga., native watched her third attempt travel a personal-best distance of 168-3 to take 12th.
Covington returned in the discus and finished fourth with a round three throw of 149-11. This ranks as her third-best try this season as she also posted her top discus mark (161-3) at Mt. SAC two years ago.
In the hammer throw Invite, senior Shelby Ashe was the second collegiate finisher (third overall) with a toss of 201-2. Former Lady Bulldog NCAA champion Nikola Lomnicka finished second (211-7).
Jamario Calhoun, Raytez Jenkins, Jon Okoye and Reggie Glover approached their season-best time in the 4x100m relay to earn second-place honors. The foursome clocked a 39.86, which was just .06 seconds from the Bulldogs’ best time of 2016 at the Yellow Jacket Invitational.
The Bulldogs went third, seventh and 13th in the men’s 800m race. Senior Christian Harrison was Georgia’s top finisher with a 1:48.32 while fellow senior Kisean Smith ran a 1:48.78 to finish seventh. The one personal best in the race for the Bulldogs came from true freshman Jeramey Hampton, who had a 1:49.81 for 13th.
Senior Ashley Henry was fourth in the 43-woman field of the 400m after completing her lap in 54.09.
Also of note, Okoye finished in the top 10 (10th) with a 10.59 in the 100m.
Junior Georgia Stefanidi will compete with the rest of the field in the women’s pole vault Invite on Saturday at 7 p.m. after it was delayed on Friday because of the rain.
Day two of the meet begins with the women’s steeplechase at 9 a.m. and continues through the women’s 5000m at 10:15 p.m.
Live stats and full results from the Virginia Challenge will be posted at georgiadogs.com.