This story was written by Sydney Lowe of Grady Sports. The Grady Sports Media Program is an undergraduate program for students at the University of Georgia.
When Georgia competes at the NCAA indoor track and field championships this weekend, it will feature a relay team that is unlike anything the school has ever had before.
From Mar. 11 to Mar. 13, the University of Georgia will compete in the 2021 NCAA indoor track and field championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas. While there are a number of Bulldogs to watch throughout the weekend, the men’s 4×400 team is worth keeping an eye on as they seek to change the narrative for Georgia track and field.
Georgia’s Matthew Boling, Caleb Cavanaugh, Delano Dunkley and Elija Godwin will represent the program in this year’s 4×400-meter relay. As they prepared for the championship meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas, these athletes expressed a desire to create a new legacy for the program.
“A lot of people look at our sprint group as somebody who just didn’t really fit in,” Godwin said. “They don’t really look at UGA as a very important or impactful sprint school. So when we come, we have to set a tone.”
Georgia’s program has traditionally excelled in field and multi-events, but has often struggled in the sprints.
“Georgia track and field has been on the scene for a very long time,” said sprints, hurdles and relay coach Althea Thomas. “But we’ve been sporadic at best in the sprints.”
This weekend, the men’s relay team seeks to break this trend. A win in the 4×400 for the Georgia Bulldogs would send shockwaves throughout college track and field and put Georgia on the map as a sprint school.
In order for this to happen, the team will have to overcome its relative lack of experience. While Boling and Godwin have experience in open 400 races, Cavanaugh and Dunkley haven’t traditionally competed in this event.
“Caleb is an 800 guy and Delano is a 200 guy,” said Boling. “Every time they run the 4×400, it’s like their second or third time ever running it.”
This inexperience showed itself in the SEC Championships. Although the team got off to a good start, it faced challenges in the second half of the race. While running the team’s third leg, Dunkley was bumped by an opponent, which caused the team to fall back to third place in its heat. Dunkley explained how his lack of experience caused him to hesitate.
“Running the 4×400 is new to me,” Dunkley said. “You have to be aggressive when you’re running the 4×400, indoors especially, because [an opponent] can push and not get disqualified. I didn’t know that because I didn’t have the experience like Matthew and Elija. I didn’t fight back, I just let the bumping happen.”
Despite the hiccup in the third leg, the team still ran its fastest time of the season at the SEC championships, finishing in 3:04.72. This makes them fourth seed in the nation behind Tennessee, North Carolina A&T and Kentucky, as they enter into the national championships this weekend. This performance was also historic as it broke Georgia’s 4×400 school record for the second time this season.
The overall men’s team competition is expected to be close up until the end. With the 4×400 being the last event of the weekend, the relay team could give the Bulldogs crucial points in its attempt to bring a championship home to Athens, Georgia.
“The 4×400 is our dark horse for the national championship,” Kyprianou said. “We’ve never had anything this fast before.”
More Georgia Track and Field stories
- Six Bulldog women qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in jumps
- Heptathlon presents big opportunity for Georgia Track at NCAA Championships
- The men’s 4×400 relay team is UGA’s “dark horse” leading up to the NCAA championships
- Georgia women’s pole vaulters Kayla Smith, Julia Fixsen poised to earn medals at NCAA Indoor Championships