This story was written by Alex Nikitin of Grady Sports. The Grady Sports Media Program is an undergraduate program for students at the University of Georgia.
When Georgia competes in this week’s NCAA indoor track and field championships, one event that will be key to the team’s overall performance is the heptathlon.
Sophomore Kyle Garland and junior Karel Tilga will represent the Bulldogs in this grueling event that will take place this Thursday and Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The heptathlon consists of the following seven disciplines that are contested in order: The 60-meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60-meter hurdles, pole vault and the 1000-meters.
Garland enters the championships as the top-seeded heptathlete after his first-place finish in February’s 2021 SEC indoor championships. Tilga will compete as the seventh seed after his season-best performance at the Razorback Invitational on Jan. 29.
Georgia also had a third athlete qualify for the heptathlon—Senior Johannes Erm. However, he will not compete due to an ankle injury.
Because the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships were canceled due the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s championships offer a unique opportunity for both Garland and Tilga. It will be their first time competing at the meet, despite both qualifying for last year’s event.
Although the stakes are higher at this week’s NCAA championships, both athletes plan to rely on what has worked for them during their time at Georgia. Tilga, for one, sees his training in preparation for this year’s championships as very similar to what he did in 2020.
“I wouldn’t say it’s that much different,” said Tilga. “The only difference is that there are more safety precautions with the masks. Other than that, we still get everything done that we need to get done.”
As the top-seeded athlete going into this week’s competition, Garland is choosing to focus on the numbers and not his competitors.
“For me, I know the multi-event competition is really about who is able to show up and perform on that day,” he said. “I am not really singling out one specific person or one specific program as opposed to really just keeping my eyes open.”
Both athletes are coached by head coach Petros Kyprianou, who is regarded as among the best multi-event coaches in the world. Kyprianou has high praise for both of his heptathletes’ competitive spirit.
“They don’t want to lose to each other,” Kyprianou said. “When they compete separately and when they compete together, they are so focused on beating each other they don’t worry about the competition.”
If Garland and Tilga can bring out the best in each other this week, the heptathlon could prove to be the Bulldogs’ most successful event.
More Georgia Track and Field stories
- Six Bulldog women qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in jumps
- The men’s 4×400 relay team is UGA’s “dark horse” leading up to the NCAA championships
- Georgia sophomore Anna Hall chases pentathlon gold at NCAA championships
- Georgia women’s pole vaulters Kayla Smith, Julia Fixsen poised to earn medals at NCAA Indoor Championships