The University of Georgia women enter the 2018 indoor track and field season with a clear mission: to win an NCAA Division I team title, a feat which eluded them last year but now looks within reach after an impressive season debut this past weekend at the Clemson Orange & Purple Invitational in South Carolina.
Georgia has built its reputation as a track power on the springy legs and strong arms of its field and multi-event athletes. When the Bulldogs came within two points of team champion Oregon at the 2017 NCAA DI Outdoor Championships, their contingent of nine field athletes set a meet record for points scored in field events (62.2 points).
Zero female track athletes from Georgia qualified for the 2017 indoor or outdoor championships, but that will change this season with the addition of top prep recruits Lynna Irby and Tara Davis, each of whom turned in impressive collegiate debuts at Clemson.
Irby clocked 36.73 to win the women's 300m and establish herself as the sixth-fastest collegiate woman of all time in the event, surpassing greats like Shalonda Solomon and Natasha Hastings.
Stunning @UGATrack debut by @PikeHSAthletics' Lynna Irby. Won 300m in 36.73— David Woods (@DavidWoods007) January 7, 2018
35.83 Merlene Ottey (Neb) '81
36.12 Sydney McLaughlin (Ky) '17
36.67 Francena McCorory (Hampton) '07
36.70 Dezerea Bryant (Ky) '14
36.72 Shakima Wimbley (Miami) '17
36.73 Lynna Irby (Ga) '18
Only Sydney McLaughlin of Kentucky, who made the Olympics at age 16, has run faster this year (36.12). SECs are going to be spicy.
Not only was Irby's time blazing fast, it was also enough to soundly defeat 200m collegiate record holder Kyra Jefferson. The Nike pro ran 37.74, a full second behind the college freshman.
Davis, a triple threat in the short hurdles, long jump and triple jump, placed third in the 60m hurdles in 8.28 — the sixth-fastest time in the NCAA so far this season. She was also third in the long jump with a leap of 6.43m/21-1.25, behind teammates Kate Hall and Keturah Orji, who leapt 6.64m/21-9.5 and 6.45m/21-2, respectively.
The trio now rank No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 in the NCAA.
Hall's mark was a new indoor personal best. The defending NCAA outdoor champion for the long jump had a banner day, winning the 60m in 7.32 — the third-fastest mark in the NCAA this season.
With the reassurance of solid freshman debuts, Hall jumping better than ever, and Orji set to continue her reign as the undisputed triple jump queen of the NCAA, the Bulldogs just need strong performances from high jumpers Mady Fagan and Tatiana Gusin, who won gold and silver at NCAAs both indoors and outdoors last year.
There's also potential in distance runner twins Sam and Jessica Drop to score points on the big stage after earning their first All-American honors in cross country this fall.
The potential of this Georgia squad is obviously very exciting, but there were several performances from other teams that likely brightened their SID's days.
.@BenjaminVedel97 runs in his first collegiate race--which ties the No. 4 300 meters time in COLLEGIATE HISTORY!— Gators Track and Field & Cross Country (@GatorsTF) January 6, 2018
Also tied @Flaamingoo_'s Clemson University Indoor Complex facility record from 2017.
Not a bad start, freshman pic.twitter.com/iuLsOyR5Zy
- Florida freshman Benjamin Vedel, who joins the Gators via Denmark, won the 300m at Clemson in 32.80, which ties the NCAA No. 4 all-time mark shared with none other than teammate Grant Holloway. The collegiate record is 32.32 by Torrin Lawrence.
- Holloway ran 33.35 for third while another Gator, Kunle Fasai, ran 33.22 for second and freshman Chantz Sawyers ran 34.11 for tenth. This 4x4 is ready to roll! Holloway also won the 60m hurdles in 7.69, the second-fastest time in the NCAA.
- LSU's Aleia Hobbs, who with a PB of 10.85 is the second-fastest collegiate woman in history over 100m, opened her season with an NCAA-leading 7.27 60m dash win at home in Baton Rouge.
Tennessee's @nate_strother WINS the men's 400m with the FASTEST TIME IN THE NATION - 46.45 (5 pts)!!— UT Track & Field/XC (@Vol_Track) January 6, 2018
2. @sincerecogdell 48.02 (3 pts)
(Indiana runner who crossed line 2nd DQ'd) pic.twitter.com/xASynnxHQn
- Even with the early departure of Bowerman Award winner Christian Coleman, the Tennessee Vols' sprint corps is going strong. Mustaqueen Williams (20.99 200m), Nathan Strother (46.45 400m), and Shania Collins (23.45 200m) all clocked NCAA-leading marks in their respective events at a dual meet against Indiana.