Boling to compete in three events for Georgia at NCAA Championships

Credit: Photo courtesy of the University of Georgia

Credit: Photo courtesy of the University of Georgia

If the sixth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs are to win the first men’s indoor track and field national championship in program history, sophomore Matthew Boling will have to play a key role at this weekend’s event in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The school record holder in the 200-meter dash and long jump has excelled all season long for the Bulldogs. He qualified for five events at the NCAA Championships (Thursday-Sunday), registering times in the top 12 nationally in the 60-meter dash, the 200- and 400-meter meter dash, the 4x400-meter relay and the long jump. He chose to compete in the 200, the 4x400 and the long jump to give himself enough rest between events.

“Long jump is always before the 200, so I try to focus on my technique for the long jump,” Boling said. “Then I have about 10 minutes to refocus my mind on the 200.”

Boling’s sprint coach, Althea Thomas, understands the rare opportunity to work with an athlete as gifted as Boling. A high school standout at Strake Jesuit in Houston, Boling came to Georgia with high expectations.

“He is the best problem to have as a track and field coach,” Thomas said. “He is not afraid of any training. As a coach, you can develop him on both ends. It makes him a triple threat.”

With UGA’s men ranked sixth and its women ranked fourth, a number of Bulldogs are poised for podium finishes. Here are some of the others to watch:

The rest of the 4x4

The Bulldogs are not known as a sprint powerhouse, but the relay has progressed steadily to become the fourth-best team in the country.

“I feel like all year people have doubted us in the 4x4, and we continue to show progress,” Boling said.

Accompanying Boling in the lineup is senior Delano Dunkley and juniors Caleb Cavanaugh and Elija Godwin, of Covington, who is recovering from a horrific injury suffered as a freshman in 2019 when he backed into a javelin and was impaled. He has bounced back and now is ranked sixth in the country in the 400-meter dash, in which he also will compete.

Ranked above the Bulldogs is No. 1 Tennessee, followed by North Carolina A&T and Kentucky. Kentucky is ahead of Georgia by only 0.5 seconds.

Men’s heptathlon

After taking gold and becoming the ninth consecutive athlete from Georgia to win an SEC indoor championship in the heptathlon, Kyle Garland hopes to stand atop the podium again this weekend. His biggest competition may come from his teammate and training partner Karel Tilga. This year, Garland is seeded first overall while Tilga is seeded eighth.

During the two days of competition at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas, the heptathletes will compete in the 60-meters, the long jump, the shot put, the high jump, the 60-meter hurdles, the pole vault and the 1000-meters.

Garland, who is now a two-time SEC indoor champion, is seeded first going into this weekend’s event. He has never missed the podium in a heptathlon he has competed in during his time at Georgia. After achieving a personal record at the SEC indoor championships, Garland described his approach to competing in such a grueling event.

“Although you are competing against people right alongside you it’s still about who gets the highest number,” Garland said. “These guys are my brothers but at the end of the day they’re also my competitors.”

Women’s high jump/heptathlon

Sophomore standout Anna Hall currently ranks second nationally in both the high jump and pentathlon and is expected to bring home medals at the NCAA’s after earning both a silver and gold at this year’s SEC Championships.

Tyra Gittens of Texas A&M is Hall’s biggest opponent. Gittens is the only athlete who ranks above Hall nationally in the high jump and the pentathlon.

“I think it’s gonna take an NCAA record from one of us, maybe both of us,” Hall said. “We might be over it but I think we’re definitely gonna push each other to a big score.”

Last week, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) named her its South Region Women’s Field Athlete of the Year.

Long and triple jumpers

The jumping events have long been a strength for Georgia, and this year Jasmine Moore and Titiana Marsh are leading the way. Moore, a sophomore, is ranked seventh in the long jump with a best of 21-1 1/2 inches and second in the triple jump (45-10). Marsha, a junior, is 12th in the long jump at 20-10¾ and ninth in the triple jump at 44-2¾.

Moore is coming off a strong performance when she jumped 45 feet and 10 inches, a personal best, to help the Georgia women place third at the SEC Indoor Championships in February.

“I have long jump first and then I have triple jump the next day, which is a good order for me because long jump is less pounding on the body, so I feel more fresh for triple jump,” Moore said. “I still want to be competitive … [and] score in both.”

Jessica Drop (3,000m)

Senior Jessica Drop will be the only long distance participant for the Bulldogs. In past seasons, she has qualified for four championships between indoor and outdoor track, all in the women’s 5,000-meter run.

But despite that success, Drop did not earn a qualifying time for the event this season. At the SEC Championships she was disqualified for stepping on the side rail and falling off the track.

The pace of the championship race could go either way, Drop said. It could be a more quick and honest pace, or just as easily be a slower, strategic one.

“Some of the girls in the race like to take it out fast,” Drop said. “I want it to be a more honest race because it will give me an opportunity to run a fast time which I think I am ready for.”

Mackenzie Brooks, Emily Dozier, L.J. Jackson, Sophia Ralph, and Taylor Vismor contributed to this report.

The Sports Media Program is an undergraduate program for students at the University of Georgia.