Jan. 19, 2013
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- Georgia's track and field teams posted a pair of the country's leading marks during the season-opening Auburn Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday.
UGA won three events during its first meet of the indoor season and the victories came from two sophomores and a freshman.
"I'm glad we have gotten through the first one and we got through with some bright spots," said head coach Wayne Norton, who had 25 team members on the trip who had never competed indoors for the Bulldogs. "We have lots of new people and some of them got off to great starts. We also had some people who haven't had the chance to compete much for us do really well today."
Sophomore Nick Vena took over the national lead in the shot put with a sixth and final throw of 61 feet, 4 ¼ inches. Vena won his first meet with the Bulldogs after transferring to UGA from Virginia, where he won ACC outdoor titles in both the shot and discus last year. His mark is the seventh-best effort in school history and the best in the last six indoor seasons at Georgia.
"It was nice for Vena to win in his first outing with us," Norton said. "I think he is ready to do big things for Georgia in the future."
Vena's teammate, junior Caleb Whitener, opened with the longest throw of his indoor career (59-4.25) to finish third in the competition. Whitener, who was a 2012 Second Team All-American outdoors in the event, fouled on his final five tries. Whitener's fair mark put him No. 3 on the national list behind Vena and second-place finisher Isaiah Simmons of Miami.
Fellow sophomore Morgann Leleux also moved into the nation's No. 1 spot in the women's pole vault. The New Iberia, La., native managed a meet-record mark of 13-11.25 to win the event after she finished second at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets in 2012. Leleux reached 14-5.25, which is second in the school record books, at indoor Nationals last year.
"I thought Morgann really took care of business in a workman-like way," said Norton. "She didn't start jumping until two and a half hours into the competition and than soared over the first bar so I thought she did great considering the circumstances."
In the first attempt of her collegiate career, freshman Chanice Porter traveled 20-4.25 to win the long jump over 33 competitors. Porter shot to sixth on the school's all-time top-10 list and quickly took over the No. 3 spot on the NCAA performance list.
"For Chanice to step right in and win her first collegiate meet was great to see and I think it was only a glimpse at some of the things to come from her," said Norton.
Sophomore heptathlete Garrett Scantling picked up a person-best mark in his first pole vault competition of the year. Scantling, who advanced to this past summer's World Junior Championships, cleared 16-0.75 to take fifth. The Jacksonville, Fla., native had never hit the 15-foot mark indoors or outdoors during his Bulldog career before Saturday.
Also in the pole vault, freshman Maicel Uibo, who competes in the multi-events as well, matched his career best of 15-7 to finish ninth.
Junior Elizabeth Tepe made her Lady Bulldog debut in the weight throw and wasted no time taking over the ninth place in the school record books. Tepe, who was in the Marines from 2006 to 2010 before competing at Saddleback Junior College, had a top mark of 50-3.50 to take 10th.
Another newcomer, freshman Maurice Freeman, competed for the first time in the high jump and finished fourth in a jump-off. Freeman, who made his final two clearances on his third and final attempts, went over the bar at 6-10.25. This mark tops Freeman's best effort at Oglethorpe High School by a quarter of an inch.
"Not only was this Maurice's first indoor meet, but it was also probably the first time he had ever been to an indoor competition," Norton said. "I thought it was a big plus getting a performance like this to start. If he keeps improving throughout the year, he might work himself into being an SEC scorer."
The Lady Bulldogs went fourth-fifth-sixth in the 3000. Junior Nicole DiMercurio clocked a time of 9:46.81 to take fourth while junior Bret McDaniel was fifth (9:48.58). Junior Stella Christoforou rounded out the trio with a sixth-place finish (9:49.70).
"All three of our girls in the 3000 had (personal bests) after settling into the race and then finishing strong," Norton said. "All three of them usually concentrate on different events so these performances showed they are all on the right track to having successful seasons. They had the opportunity to represent the Georgia distance crew at this meet and did a fine job of it."
Sarah Perry, who redshirted her first indoor season, clocked a 4:59.40 in the mile for eighth place.
Georgia returns to action at the Razorback Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., on Jan. 25-26. This is the first of three trips that the Bulldogs have scheduled to Arkansas since the SEC Indoor Championships and the NCAA Indoor Championships will also be run on the Randal Tyson Track.