The Bulldogs captured their first national team track and field title with 52 points at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Friday.
This team title for the Bulldog men comes three months after the Lady Bulldogs captured their first team title at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships.
This concluded the men’s portion of the meet and saw the Bulldogs top the nearest competitor, Florida (42), by 10 points. The Georgia women are in third place with 14 points going into their finale on Saturday as Stanford (25) and Florida (17) are currently ahead of UGA.
After leaving the University of Oregon by matching a program-best sixth-place finish in 2017, eight scorers, including junior Denzel Comenentia who swept the hammer throw and shot put, propelled the Georgia men to UGA’s first national championship on the men’s side since men’s tennis in 2008 and the 14th crown overall for the Georgia men.
Senior Cejhae Greene was the first Bulldog to score on Friday, adding his name to the scoring column for the first time in his NCAA outdoor career after taking seventh in the 100m final.
Finishing nearly simultaneously, the Bulldogs then had a combined three more scorers in the high jump and 200m. Junior Keenon Laine went over the high jump bar at 7 feet, 3 inches to take third while freshman Antonios Merlos shocked the field by clearing a personal record of 7-1.75 to take fifth on the slick high jump apron.
Meanwhile, junior Kendal Williams shot across the 200m finish line in 20.32 to take third and pump up his team’s total by another six points in the third to last event of the men’s meet.
Also in the first day of the women’s heptathlon on Friday, sophomore Louisa Grauvogel posted two personal records and was leading by 84 points through four of seven events with a day one career-best score of 3,752. Coming into the week with the nation’s seventh-best score, Grauvogel had to retire from the heptathlon with an injury at the 2016 NCAA meet and was then fifth in the pentathlon at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships for the national champion Lady Bulldogs.
On Wednesday for the men, Comenentia swept the hammer throw and shot put for only the third time in NCAA history to give the Bulldogs two national individual champions outdoors in the same season for the first time.
During Thursday’s action for the men and women, senior Keturah Orji captured her first NCAA long jump title and seventh overall national championship while freshman teammate Tara Davis was fifth in the event to score. In the decathlon, senior Karl Saluri rounded out his Bulldog career with a personal record to take second and freshman Johannes Erm posted the top tally of his career to finish third after 10 events.
“Today was an outstanding day and the boys showed up with a vengeance,” said head coach Petros Kyprianou. “We set the tone with Denzel getting those 20 points and then getting out to a lead with 34 points put us with a positive confidence level. This was a great team effort. Having the high jumpers step it up was awesome, I am really proud of the way those two guys competed after getting picked to score two points and scoring 10. This was a tremendous effort by everyone involved, all support staff, everyone. The entire crew did an amazing job and it’s a great day to be a Georgia Bulldog!”
Greene, who was ninth and missed the final at the 2017 NCAA Championships, shot across the 100m finish line in 10.37 to take seventh. This bumped the Bulldogs’ total up two points and gave him his second expected First Team All-American certificate in 2018 after taking fourth in the 60m indoors. Greene becomes the first Bulldog scorer in the 100m since Manley Waller in 1987.
The high jump outcome scored the exact amount of points the Bulldogs need to top the Gators for the title. Laine, who tied for fourth in 2017, overcame a slow start with early misses and built up to a 7-3 clearance to score six points in third place. Right behind him was Merlos, who had hit a personal record of 7-1 at the conference met, and the true freshman battled to a personal-best height of 7-1.75 to add a huge four points.
Finally, Williams, who missed making the 100m final, took the track in the 200m and demonstrated why he is one of the country’s most feared sprinters. He took off out of the blocks and clocked a 20.32 to finish just .03 behind the third-place finisher for another pivotal six points.
On the women’s side in the heptathlon, Grauvogel rocketed out of the blocks in the 100m hurdles and won with a personal record of 12.95. The only sub-13 on the day (and only second competitor in meet history to run faster than 13 seconds) put her in the lead by 41 points and gave her the No. 2 time in Georgia history behind the legendary Kendell Williams’ 12.82 from the 2017 USATF meet. Williams, a three-time NCAA hep champion, holds the meet record of 12.82 and accomplished the sub-13 feat three times.
Grauvogel made it two personal records in a row following her third-attempt high jump clearance of 5-8.75. Clean on her first two heights, Grauvogel matched her former personal best of 5-7.75 on her second try before scoring 916 points on her next height. She headed into the shot put up 21 points on Wisconsin’s Georgia Ellenwood.
In the shop put, Grauvogel held on to a 25-point overall lead after she saved her top mark for her third and final toss. Opening with an effort of 40-1.25, Grauvogel completed her series with a throw of 41-1 to take eighth in the event.
Grauvogel finished day one as she started, winning an event and sitting in the lead. With a consistent light rain, she took off in the 200m and finished .03 from her personal best with a 23.72. Grauvogel earned an additional 1,008 points and left the track with an edge over Ellenwood.
On Saturday, Grauvogel will start her final three events in the heptathlon (long jump, javelin, 800m) at 2:30 p.m. Senior Tatiana Gusin will high jump for the final time as a Lady Bulldog at 6 p.m. while Orji will make her final appearance in red and black during the triple jump at 6:40 p.m. On the track, freshman Lynna Irby will race in the 400m final at 7:32 p.m. and the 200m final at 8:07 p.m. Sophomore Jessica Drop will also make her NCAA outdoor meet debut in the 5000m at 8:25 p.m.
Other than the decathlon running Wednesday-Thursday and the heptathlon going Friday-Saturday, the meet was set up to be a men’s competition on Wednesday and Friday and a women’s competition on Thursday and Saturday.
ESPN has exclusive rights to broadcast the meet and will feature the Nationals on a variety of platforms:
*Saturday: 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m., ESPN; 2:20 p.m. – 8:15 p.m., ESPN3