Denzel Comenentia had never won a national championship title.
Until Wednesday, when he won two on the opening day of competition at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships in front of 9,767 fans at Hayward Field.
Comenentia, a junior from Georgia, won the hammer throw and came back four hours later to capture the shot put. The sweep of the two events makes him only the third competitor to do so at the NCAAs, matching the accomplishments of Cal’s Jack Merchant (1922) and Auburn’s Cory Martin (2008).
“It feels amazing,” Comenentia said. “It came so unexpected. We had some great competitors and to get the double is amazing.”
To open the meet, Comenentia won the first NCAA title of the meet in the hammer. With a first-place and personal best throw of 250 feet, 8 inches (76.41 meters), he is the No. 10 all-time collegiate performer in the event, and gave the Bulldogs their first victory in the hammer since 2003.
“This was my goal,” Comenentia said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, it’s never easy, but it just feels like my day cannot be better.”
A few hours later, he rallied to claim the shot put title with a winning mark of 67-7 Ѕ (20.61m) – moving from sixth to first on his fifth throw.
After winning the hammer, Comenentia said the first thing he’d do was call his Mom with the good news. Little did they both know, he would be calling her again after the shot put.
“She was pretty happy,” he said. “She has been everything. My coach, my mentor, always somebody to support me when I’m down. She’s everything to me.”
Four other competitors earned NCAA titles on Wednesday.
South Dakota sophomore Chris Nilsen won the pole vault with a meet record of 19-1 Ѕ (5.83m). Nilsen broke the 1996 NCAA meet record of 19-1 (5.82m) set by Tennessee’s Lawrence Johnson in 1996.
“It’s something that I am very happy about and proud of,” said Nilsen, the proud father of four-month-old son, Roman Christopher Nilsen. “I am very happy to pull out the win, and to show that just because you are a parent in the NCAA doesn’t mean you stop. If anything, it motivates you.”
In the 10,000 meters, Michigan’s Ben Flanagan used a late surge to edge Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop for the victory with a personal best of 28:34.53. Flanagan couldn’t imagine a better way to end his collegiate career.
“Going into this race, I knew I had a shot, and I knew it was an outside shot,” Flanagan said. “This was the first time when I went into this race with all these All-Americans and I felt like fit in, and I wasn’t scared of anything today and I think that helped a lot.”
Mississippi State freshman Anderson Peters dominated the javelin with a meet record and personal best of 271-9 (82.82m) on this third attempt of the competition. The SEC freshman field athlete of the year won a bronze medal in the javelin for his native Grenada at the Commonwealth Games earlier this season.
In the long jump, Ohio State senior Zack Bazile came through with a personal best mark of 27-5 Ѕ (8.37m) to claim the Buckeyes’ first individual NCAA title since 1993.
The men’s competition will resume on Friday.