Feature Friday: Keturah Orji Ready To Take 2018 By Storm

Two-time The Bowerman finalist Keturah Orji isn’t shy about what she hopes to accomplish in 2018.

“I have the same goals as last year since 2017 didn’t go as well as I wanted it to,” Orji said during an interview at the 2017 USTFCCCA Convention, one day before The Bowerman Presentation. “Indoors, hopefully PR again, and outdoors, I don’t know at what point, but I would like to jump 15 meters.”

When you’re a world-class triple jumper who finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and is also looking to do something that only 26 other women have done in world history – hop, step and jump 15 meters (49-2½ feet) indoors or outdoors – “well” has a relative definition.

Orji wasn’t content with just unifying the American and collegiate triple jump records. Her colossal series at the SEC Championships – 14.32m (46-11¾), 14.32m (46-11¾), foul, 14.20m (46-7¼) and 14.28m (46-10¼) – etched her name deeper into history and gave her both the indoor and outdoor standards in the event, but there was still so much more to do.

Triple Jump Dominance

Take a closer look at how Keturah Orji’s name is peppered throughout the all-time collegiate indoor and outdoor best lists as it pertains to the triple jump.
Indoor Top-10 Mark Outdoor Top-10 Mark
Keturah Orji 14.32m Keturah Orji 14.53m
Keturah Orji 14.32m Keturah Orji 14.31m
Keturah Orji 14.28m Keturah Orji 14.29m
Suzette Lee 14.25m Kimberly Williams 14.25m
Kimberly Williams 14.23m Kimberly Williams 14.22m
Keturah Orji 14.20m Trecia Smith 14.22m
Erica McLain 14.20m Ganna Demydova 14.20m
Andrea Geubelle 14.18m Keturah Orji 14.19m
Kimberly Williams 14.17m Keturah Orji 14.15m
Keturah Orji 14.14m Two others 14.15m

Winning two more NCAA titles to bring her career total to five and scoring a total of 34 points those same championship meets wasn’t enough either.

Nor was being crowned U.S. champion for the second year in a row.

Nagging injuries from a long, success-filled season forced Orji to watch the 2017 IAAF World Championships from the sidelines and robbed her of a chance to be legendary – nay, golden.

That’s why Orji wasn’t pleased with how 2017 turned out.

“She wants to be the best at everything she does,” Georgia coach Petros Kyprianou said of Orji during The Bowerman Presentation in December. “That’s the kind of leadership I’m looking for as her coach – and as a head coach – and she’s got it.”

Even though it’s within the realm of possibility for Orji to pursue that elusive global medal in 2018, it’s not probable due to the schedule – unless she puts a priority on it over collegiate glory, which is highly unlikely with how the Bulldogs will be in the hunt for SEC and NCAA titles.

This year the IAAF World Indoor Championships are the weekend before NCAAs, not after, like in 2016 when Orji and several other collegians competed for their respective countries following the completion of their seasons. That means she would likely need to qualify for Team USA two weeks earlier at the USATF Indoor Championships, one week before the SEC Championships.

If Orji felt ultracompetitive, she could do all four – but that would mean she’d have to be at her absolute best on back-to-back-to-back-to-back weeks and travel nearly 15,000 total miles.

Chances are Orji will focus on the collegiate scene and look to become just the fifth athlete in NCAA DI history to win three consecutive indoor triple jump titles. Kimberly Williams was the last to do so from 2009 to 2011 and joined Michael Conley (1983 to 1985), Erick Walder (1992 to 1994) and Robert Howard (1996 to 1998) in that regard.

The first time Orji will compete in the triple jump this year is this weekend at the Clemson Invitational.

“I’m feeling good about this year,” Orji said. “My training has been going well and everything. Hopefully I can leave my collegiate career with a bang.”