ATHENS — When Petros Kyprianou first talked to athletic director Greg McGarity about becoming Georgia’s track and field coach, he made a bold guarantee.
“If we don’t win a national championship in three years, you can fire me,” Kyprianou told him.
The Bulldogs women’s track team returned to campus from College Station, Texas, on Monday carrying the first-place trophy from the NCAA Indoor Championships. The accomplishment came in Kyprianou’s third year.
“I was kidding, kind of,” Kyprianou said as members of his team posed with the championship trophy in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall on Monday. “But I knew we could do it, and I don’t have a lot of patience. We did it the right way. If you understand the rules and regulations of the game and you go after the right people, you can make it happen.”
And that is what Georgia did. Long known in track circles as a “jumps school” or a “field team,” the Bulldogs under Kyprianou added some young track talent to an already-strong nucleus of field talent. The result was a fairly dominant victory on the campus of perennial track powerhouse Texas A&M. Georgia finished with 61 points to second-place Arkansas’ 49.
Recording key points for the Bulldogs were freshman Lynna Irby, who finished third in 200-meter and 400-meter races in which the top two spots produced collegiate records, and sophomore Jessica Drop, who came in as the eighth seed but finished fourth in the 5,000-meter run.
Georgia was able to add to its points totals with its usual contributions from veterans such as senior Keturah Orji, who won another individual title in the triple jump, and junior Kate Hall, who won the long jump.
“I knew Georgia was always really good in field events,” said Irby, a junior sprint champion who came to UGA from Indianapolis. “Coach, he reached out to me and told me he needed me and he believed in me. I saw his vision and wanted to be a part of it.”
The team victory was particularly sweet for Orji, who recorded her third indoor individual title and sixth overall.
“It means a lot more when you’re able to share this with the people you practice with every day, train with, meet with,” Orji said. “It means so much more when you win as a team and can celebrate as a team. It was really amazing, and I’m so excited for everyone here.”
Georgia’s men also have benefited from Kyprianou’s presence. They finished third in their third season under the man who came to UGA from Cyprus as the teams’ throws coach.
It has all been about recruiting.
“We knew we had to get some No. 1s on the track,” Kyprianou said. “It’s just like Kirby [Smart]. You’ve got to get the No. 1 quarterback and the best receiver and the best offensive lineman, so they can get you where you want to go as quickly as you can. I do the same thing; it just doesn’t get the same publicity.”
Now the Bulldogs have their sights set on the NCAA Outdoor Championships in early June in Oregon.
“This puts us in a good spot,” Kyprianou said. “Outdoors is always tougher because there are more events. But it puts us in a good frame of mind going in.”
Kyprianou told McGarity about another dream he has. He would like to move Georgia’s track and field facilities to another location so they can expand the venue and be able to one day host nationals in Athens.
That is some serious ambition, for sure. But, at this point, nobody’s counting out Kyprianou or Georgia.
Correction: Coach Petros Kyprianou’s last name was misspelled in the original post. DawgNation regrets the error.