Georgia runner Jessica Drop leads the pack during the 1500 meter run at the Spec Towns Track Invitational on Friday, April 5, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. Drop will return in 2021 to lead the Georgia track and field team's distance runners as a fifth-year. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

Unlike other senior Bulldogs who were still building up to postseason form when their seasons ended, Georgia track and field athletes were on location at the NCAA championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the two-day meet was canceled on March 13. Both men’s track and field seniors and six senior women plan to capitalize on the fifth year of eligibility extended by the NCAA and return to Athens in 2021. Of the eight hanging back, four qualified for the 2020 NCAAs. Here’s what they bring back to the track in 2021:

Jessica Drop

In 2020, Drop ranked No. 77 nationally for the mile and placed in the top-35 for the 3,000 and 5,000-meter events. She was the team’s fastest long-distance runner in all three events. Her best result of the season was fourth-place in the 5,000-meter at the Bob Pollock Invitational, enough to edge into the 2020 NCAAs with the event’s last spot. Notching two top-four times in the 2020 SECs and with four cross country seasons under her belt, Drop looks to cement her distance leadership in 2021.

Drop’s twin sister, Samantha Drop, still has a full year of eligibility left after redshirting for the 2018 indoor and 2019 outdoor seasons. 

“I still have some goals that I want to accomplish on the track,” Jessica Drop said. “I’m also super glad to be in Athens one more year because Sam and I have been discussing that there are a few more things that we still haven’t done in Athens.”

Kayla Smith

Already in her fifth year at Georgia after redshirting, Smith secured a spot in the 2020 NCAA pole vault event with a 14’4” mark at the Razorback Invitational. She finished fourth at the SEC championships for the second year in a row despite raising the bar by 2.25 inches. Smith currently ranks No. 11 in the country and No. 5 in the Georgia all-time record books. The 23-year-old’s consistent improvement since joining the Bulldogs in 2016 — her personal best as a freshman was 2’3.5” lower than her 2020 qualifyer — leaves her with high expectations in 2021.

“[Athens] is my home and this team is my family,” Smith said. “Having one more year to do the sport I love and to get a second degree? What a huge blessing. Year six here we come.”

Amber Tanner

A middle-distance specialist, Tanner notched three first-place finishes in 2020. She won the 600-meter at the Orange and Purple Elite meet in January and set a school record in the 800-meter at the Tyson Invitational a month later. Her 800-meter time was the third fastest in the nation and earned her a trip to Albuquerque. In her final meet of 2020, Tanner won the 800 at SECs, a step up from her second-place spot at the conference championships last year. At the peak of her career, Tanner will return to seek the final award absent from her college resume, an NCAA title. 

“I have put my all into this program, and this program has put its all into me,” Tanner said. “I am so excited to come back for one last go around.”

Darius Carbin

After placing 12th in the high jump at the 2019 Indoor NCAAs, Carbin peaked in 2020 at the Orange and Purple Elite meet with a first-place mark 4.4 inches higher than his championship effort. The 7’4.5” jump, the highest of his college career, was enough to send him to his fourth-consecutive national championship. However, his performances steadily declined leading up to the 2020 tournament. His last jump of the season at 7’3” was good enough for second place at the Tyson Invitational, but the 6-foot-6 senior will have to tap into the same mindset he had at the beginning of the 2020 indoor season if he wants to make waves at a fifth national meet.

“I’m happy about the decision," Carbin said. "And it ends up working out for me since I was still going to be in school anyway.”

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