Just 12 days ago, ESPN anchor John Anderson was the only thing left standing between the Georgia track and field team and its first ever national championship.
As red, white and blue confetti fell on to the track in College Station, Texas, and cheers erupted, head coach Petros Kyprianou locked eyes with Angie Lansing of the NCAA Track & Field Committee Chair. Lansing spoke into the microphone and congratulated Kyprianou, his team and all Georgia Bulldog fans on history
After a handshake and a brief exchange, Kyprianou finally held in his hands the trophy he had dreamt of putting in his trophy case for the past three years. A quick kiss to the golden side of the trophy was followed by a long series of hoists over his head.
“It was a surreal feeling after coming to this country 14 years ago,” Kyprianou said. “Personally, I reflected on being turned down by a lot of places, universities, a lot of schools, and teams. All these things passed through my head like all the great athletes I was fortunate and blessed to train over the years.
Kyprianou and his Georgia women’s track and field team, as he stated during his post meet interview, were finally able “to join [the] great fraternity of coaches and athletes to win a national title.”
Admittance into the record books had been delayed after back-to back second- place finishes at last year’s indoor and outdoor NCAA championships.
But in 2018, the story was different. Despite scoring 1.2 points less than last year’s outdoor championships, Georgia’s 61-point performance was more than enough to best every team in the nation. The Bulldogs finished 12 points ahead of this year’s second-place team, Arkansas.
In the past, Kyprianou’s teams have been assembled with a focus more on the field events, specifically in the jumps. But in order to finally make the last push to a title, he recruited on the track. Freshmen Lynna Irby and Tara Davis combined to add four more scores to Georgia’s tally at NCAAs.
Irby sped her way to top-three finishes in the women’s 200 meter and 400 while fellow rookie Davis helped wrap up the 1-2-3 finish in the long jump for Georgia. The perfect sweep of the long jump by junior Kate Hall, senior Keturah Orji and Davis gave Georgia a quick lead on the first day of NCAAs. Not looking back, Kyprianou’s six athletes continued to produce clutch performances.
“We have a good plan with the field events supplemented with some good runners,” Kyprianou said. “We just have to keep it up. This is our niche. We’re not trying to be someone else. We have to be who we are.”
In wake of the women winning a national championship, the men’s team held first place throughout most of the second day of action as well. Top finishes by Florida and f Southern California uprooted the Bulldogs from the top seed. Even so, Georgia men’s third- place finish ranked as the highest ever in program history. Together, the men and women’s teams’ combined point total of 93 tallied to also be first in the nation.
Despite only one side winning a championship, Georgia’s track and field program set the bar and broke into elite status. But for Kyprianou, the celebrations are short-lived. June, and the outdoor national championship, quickly approaches, with the opportunity for Georgia to add another national championship.
“You caught one. But to create some culture and tradition, we have to win year after year after year,” Kyprianou said. “We’ve got to establish our culture and make Georgia the next Oregon, the next LSU and all these teams that have won more than one.”
On the most historic night in program history, the team flew back from College Station with two extra passengers. The third place and the national championship trophies sat side by side together on one row. Even if the time for celebrating was over, Kyprianou made sure to fasten the seat belts around the trophies a little tighter.