This week Between the Hedges checks in with UGA track & field star Morgann Leleux. Leleux, a pole-vaulter, was runner up at this year's NCAA National Indoor Championships and is currently the top American in the outdoor rankings. Here's what she had to say.
BtH: Thanks for sitting down to talk with us, Morgann. Why don't you tell us a little about yourself--how'd you end up pole-vaulting at Georgia?
Leleux: Well, I'm from New Iberia, Louisiana, where my dad was my pole vault coach and I was a gymnast. He was the one who gradually got me into pole vaulting and I guess I ended up being good enough to come here on scholarship.
BtH: A lot of our readers, not to mention myself, won't be too familiar with the details of your sport. Why don't you take us through a meet day leading up to your jump?
Leleux: I really try to stay relaxed, keep my adrenaline low. I try not to get too excited. And before I even go out there I give myself a number that I want to reach like 14' 4". Up until the meet starts I do my warmups, I stay relaxed, and when it comes I turn my adrenaline on and get ready to jump high. That way I come in at a high height and from there, take it and keep going higher.
BtH: I know that at your first ever competition you tied the then-school record (14' 3½''). What's your current personal best, and what are you aiming for?
Leleux: Right now, my best is 14' 5¼''. The last home meet I wasn't actually supposed to jump, but Coach [Petros Kyprianou] was like, "Hey, it's a good day! Go grab your spikes and uniform, you're gonna jump today."
BtH: Really! How'd you feel about that?
Leleux: No, it was good. It was originally just going to be a conditioning week for me, and I had lifted extra and all that, so we just treated it as practice and just gave me a fun home meet to jump without much pressure.
BtH: It's obviously a really taxing sport. Do stress injuries like shin splints ever bug you?
Leleux: I think because of gymnastics those problems don't really bother me. Doing gymnastic means you have to keep yourself really fit--I was a level 10 back home.
BtH: That's college level, isn't it?
Leleux: Yeah, I've actually been training gymnastics on the side. My coach says that if I make 15 feet then I can try and be a Gym Dog as well.
BtH: That's really cool, we'd love to see you out there. But why 15 feet?
Leleux: That's the height that'll get me a look with the Olympic team. I'm going to the Olympic trials soon. It's really stressful. Because of all the competition for spots in the US, it basically comes down to how high you jump on that one day. If I can make 15' then I'll probably end up in the top 3, and get a spot on the team.
BtH: That's awesome. Good luck, and thanks again.
Leleux: My pleasure!
-By Eliot Beckham
John Bateman's job at the UGA Athletic Association is officially the Director of Marketing, but as he puts it, it's hard to call something you love "work." In the first edition of the Between The Hedges Q&A, we sat down with Bateman to learn what he does for the UGAAA.
BtH: Thanks for sitting down with us. Could you describe what being the Director of Marketing entails, what an average day is like?
Bateman: Well, I usually like to get in around 7:30 - I read up on what's going around in the SEC online, make sure I'm up to date on what other schools are doing - and then after that, it's really a mixed bag. On non-event days, I'll do work around the office with our student assistants and interns to prepare for and handle group and single game tickets for events coming up. On days we do have events, I'll usually organize ticket sales at the student bookstore or coordinate large sales to groups. Then I'll head to the event and make sure that souvenirs and concessions are running smoothly and that our groups are having fun. Around halfway we'll get attendance figures, and that's when the cycle begins again.
BtH: Last night's baseball game against Georgia Tech drew a crowd of 3,004, a season high.
Bateman: Yeah, it went really well. Georgia versus Georgia Tech is always such a great and competitive game no matter the sport, and always draws a large crowd. It helps when the weather is as nice as it was yesterday. We tried hard to promote it within the student body specifically, and we couldn't have asked for a better turnout. 1,044 of that crowd were students, which completely surpassed expectations. So thanks to them for making it such a great success.
BtH: The game didn't go too bad either (Georgia won by a scoreline of 7-1).
Bateman: As marketers, we don't throw touchdowns, make free throws or score goals, but we do influence the game. We try to pitch the event to the fans as what it is: an enjoyable SEC sporting event put on by one of the top athletic programs in the nation, featuring incredible student-athletes.
BtH: What you do for Georgia is really appreciated. How did you end up here?
Bateman: I grew up in Albany and came to UGA as an undergraduate in '86, graduating in '91. I got my Masters degree in education from the graduate school here, focusing in sport management. As an undergrad I had been a student manager with the basketball team, and that was where I got started. After grad school I interned for a while at the offices of the Southeastern Conference in Birmingham, but came back in '94 to work on the promotions staff. I haven't left since.
BtH: So Athens has kind of been a second home to you. What's your favorite part about living here?
Bateman: Oh, do I have to pick one? It's America's greatest college town. The food, the music, the downtown life... it's just so easy to go out and get involved, to meet people. I've had the opportunity to coach the Athens Academy 5th and 6th grade girls' basketball team, just through friends I've met. The town keeps you young.
BtH: If it's hard to pick one aspect of Athens you like most, it's got to be even harder to pick the best thing about work.
Bateman: It's hard to call it going to work, really. But getting to interact with all the students is certainly a highlight. We have an especially close relationship with the campus community.
BtH: You're the "Mayor of Milledge," right?
Bateman: Some of the [fraternities and sororities] came up with that nickname for me a while back, just because we're so involved in marketing events and coordinating with them.
BtH: I've seen it's your twitter handle, @mayorofmilledge. You've got quite a following.
Bateman: I just talk about Georgia, and make sure people know when and where events are happening. It's not hard selling the Dawgs.
Check back next week for another edition of the Q&A!
Following the spring break getaway, the Bulldogs will continue their spring season, traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on UNC on March 24. Georgia will make the trip to Clemson on April 4 to take on the Tigers, before wrapping up the spring season on April 21 when it hosts Georgia Southern at the Ramsey Student Center at 3 p.m. Fans are encouraged to attend the match and admission is free.
With spring practice set to begin for the Georgia football team next Tuesday (a week from tomorrow) and the annual G-Day spring game set for April 14, which will be here before we know it, head coach Mark Richt sat down to touch base with the media before he heads out of town for his own "spring break" of sorts.
Richt started by talking about the team's somewhat different approach to strength and conditioning for the upcoming season, which includes two new hires in that department. Read about that here.
With Sherman Armstrong, the team is looking to "bolster the speed element," Richt said, as Armstrong has extensive experience working with all types of athletes on speed, strength and quickness. Meanwhile, John Thomas - who comes to Georgia after 20 seasons on the staff at Penn State - will specialize in high intensity training. Richt was pleased with the fact that the team will now be able to offer a diverse approach when it comes to strength and conditioning because the plans can be different for each player. "One size does not fit all" when it comes to strength and conditioning, Richt said.
The head coach also talked about the fact that spring practice is a great time to get back to the fundamentals and work on the little things. He is excited to get to see who is already showing they're ready to play football in the Southeastern Conference, and "which guys are mature enough to get into the ballgame."
Finally, exciting news out of the press conference was the announcement that Richt as well as Todd Grantham have signed contract extensions and will be with the Bulldogs for many years to come. Read more about that good news here.
Full video of the press conference is here.
Can't believe spring ball is already almost here! Go Dawgs!