Lynna Irby, the 2018 NCAA outdoor 400m champion from Georgia, is turning professional, the 20-year-old announced in an Instagram post on Thursday afternoon. Irby has not yet signed with a shoe sponsor, but she will forego her collegiate eligibility by hiring an agent.
With her surprising announcement, Irby becomes the second high-profile NCAA sophomore to abruptly go pro in the middle of the 2019 track season. Texas A&M NCAA 800m champion Sammy Watson ended her collegiate career to turn professional just weeks before the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships, while Irby competed just last weekend for the Bulldogs at the Florida Relays.
Like it was for Watson, the timing of this decision is curious for Irby. The sophomore from Indianapolis had a somewhat underwhelming indoor campaign, and she was visibly upset with her fifth-place 400m finish at last month’s NCAA Indoor Championships. Whether or not her frustration with a lackluster season had anything to do with her early departure is a matter of speculation, but the choice to leave school just days after her first outdoor meet suggests a sudden change of plans.
It is unclear as of yet who will coach Irby as she makes her transition to the professional ranks, but it does not appear that she will continue working with the Georgia staff.
“I want to first of all thank Coach Petros [Kyprianou] for helping to bring me to the University of Georgia and to AT [Althea Thomas] for training me over the last two years,” Irby wrote.
“Thanks again to all of the Bulldog Nation for their support. I will never forget my time in Athens.”
Georgia head coach Petros Kyprianou tweeted his support for Irby on Thursday.
Thank YOU Lynna for helping us elevate our sprints group— Petros Kyprianou (@petrosdeca) April 4, 2019
& helping us win the first ever ncaa title while being a great bulldawg! We love you & will cheer for you at every step of your journey!Go Lynna, Go Dawgs!! https://t.co/7Slj62ndZe
Even though she was overshadowed at times by fellow SEC freshman phenom Sydney McLaughlin in 2018, Irby established herself as one of the top quarter-milers in NCAA history last June with her stunning 49.80 performance in Eugene. The time is the second-fastest ever in the NCAA.