Sophomore Charles Grethen opened his Bulldog career by winning the 800-meter run.
Feb. 2, 2013
AKRON, Ohio --- Georgia true freshman Shaunae Miller set the third school record of the year for the Lady Bulldogs as the track and field teams had another exceptional weekend at the Akron Invitational in Akron, Ohio, on Saturday.
UGA finished its third meet of the season with a dozen victories and some of the Southeastern Conference’s top performances this year.
“A lot of times when we go to a meet that is not a high-profile one, the athletes wonder why we are going,” said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton, whose women’s team has already made new No. 1 marks all-time in the 3000-meter run, shot put and 400-meter dash this year. “I think they got their answer after today. There was a lot of winning, a lot of personal bests and a lot of people getting better.”
“I would call it a very successful meet for us. It was kind of a ‘self-help’ meet without LSU, Arkansas and other tough teams that we always see not there. I think it was especially important to our freshmen and newcomers to go to a meet where there weren’t all of the (Southeastern Conference) teams to compete against and where they could just focus on their development.”
Miller, who was racing in only the second indoor meet of her life, completed her laps in 52.96 to leave the second-place finisher behind by more than two seconds. The Nassau, Bahamas, native topped a previous school record mark of 53.19 set by Gudrun Arnardottir at the 1996 SEC Championships 17 years ago.
Miller’s finish is the fourth fastest in the nation this year (incidentally also the fourth fastest in the SEC) and ranks 17th in the world this year. While she ran in the 60 and the distance medley relay as training at the Razorback Invitational a week ago, this was the first time Miller had run the 400, an event she competed in at the 2012 Olympics, for the Lady Bulldogs.
“The big rookie made her debut in the 400 and she kind of ran cautious and tentative as she continues to learn how to run indoors,” Norton said. “She didn’t have to go out too strong and it really wasn’t a spectacular performance since she had no one pushing her. But as good as she is now and as good as she is going to be, we have to remember that she is still a teenager who is miles and miles away from home, living in a dorm and experiencing temperatures she has only read about. So I am proud of how she is handling everything.”
When the 200 came arrived, Miller cruised to another victory with the sixth-best time in school history (23.99). Sophomore Tynia Gaither was the runner-up after finishing in 24.22.
“As good as our runners were, the people in the field events did just as well,” said Norton. “Our field events are proving that they can just go out and do it every single meet.”
Fellow freshman standout Chanice Porter made it three victories in a row for her after winning the long jump with an opening mark of 20 feet, 7 ¼ inches. Porter is second in the nation in the event.
In the vertical jumps, senior Saniel Atkinson-Grier went over the high jump bar at 6 feet to pick up her first win of the year. Her third attempt clearance joins her with at least 10 other competitors nationwide who have already reached 6 feet or better.
On the men’s side, sophomore Drew Branch trimmed his personal best in the 400 down to 47.72 to pick up the victory. His sophomore teammate Chris Foster made his season debut and earned runner-up honors with a career-best 47.77.
“Both Drew and Chris ran controlled races and I was pleased with how they are coming along,” said Norton.
Another victory on the track came from sophomore Carly Hamilton in the mile a week after she set the school’s 3000 record. Hamilton registered a career-best 4:43.46 to move to fourth on the UGA all-time top-10 list with the top time for the Lady Bulldogs in the last three years.
“Carly ran a big (personal best) and has the opportunity to be one of the best in the SEC this season,” Norton said.
Hamilton’s senior teammate Nicole DiMercurio had a personal-best effort of her own (4:50.05) to take second in the mile and move to eighth in the school record books.
“I think the whole team got a boost from our performance in the women’s mile,” said Norton. “The top two did a great job and Bret McDaniel also hovering around 4:50 was very promising for our distance crew.”
Sophomore Charles Grethen narrowly missed his personal best in the 800 to win in his first meet with the Bulldogs. After transferring from Texas State, Grethen clocked a 1:50.59 to move to No. 5 on Georgia’s all-time top-10 list with the fastest time since Aaron Evans set the school record (1:47.88) last year.
“Charles ran a spectacular race,” said Norton. “He looked like the guy we decided to bring in to help us. His finish and the way Daniel ran gives us hope for some success in this event.”
In a separate 800 race, senior Daniel Grass left the track with the eighth-best time in UGA history after taking third with a mark of 1:50.84.
Juniors Megan Malasarte and Stella Christoforou earned a victory and a runner-up finish, respectively, in the women’s 800 with two personal-best finishes. Malasarte took the track for the first time in 2013 and improved her No. 4 spot in the school record books with a 2:07.68. Working with Malasarte, Christoforou bettered her No. 8 ranking on the all-time list after registering a 2:10.30.
“Megan did exceptionally well and actually had to come back at the end to win,” Norton said. “This was only her first meet and I know she will just keep getting better and better.”
During his second meet of the season, sophomore Justin Scott-Wesley won the 60 after matching his fastest career time (6.75), which is tied for third in the school record books. Teammate Johnathan Smith was right behind Scott-Wesley for second place after clocking the eighth-best time in school history (6.77).
When faced with the longer distance, Smith responded by winning the 200 with a 21.50.
Freshman Pierce Vincent (6.86) also had the fastest times of his Georgia career to third in the 60 prelims before finishing fourth in the finals.
The Lady Bulldogs also went 1-2 in the 60. Freshman Briana Vaughn answered a personal-best time in the prelims with the fourth-best time in school history (7.43) in the finals to win. Gaither, who is now tied on the all-time list with Vaughn after her time at last year’s SECs, was second (7.53).
“We went one-two in both 60s and that should be a confidence boost for our whole team,” said Norton. “It gives us something to build on and I am excited about all of their performances.”
Junior Caleb Whitener forced his way into Georgia’s record books in the shot put after heaving a career-long throw of 60-9.25 to win. He edged sophomore teammate Nick Vena (60-4), who has a mark of 62-6.75 this season and has already won a meet this season.
Also in the shot, freshman Ashinia Miller climbed another two feet for the second consecutive week to take fourth with a fifth throw measuring 58-0.50.
Despite three fouls spread out in his weight throw series, Whitener launched a season-best effort of 59-1.50 to take also sixth in his second event.
Junior Elizabeth Tepe continued her climb in the school record books as she moved from eighth to ninth in the weight throw in Akron. The Marine veteran watched her fourth attempt travel a personal-best 59-6.75 as she took sixth place in the competition.
Freshman heptathlete Devon Williams took third in the 60 hurdle finals after trimming four hundredths of a second off his personal best to cross the finish line in 8.00. This bumped Williams from sixth to a tie for fifth in the school record books.
Also of note, senior pentathlete Lucie Ondraschkova branched out to the triple jump was finished second with a top attempt of 40-11.50.
Georgia returns to action at the Husky Classic (Seattle, Wash.) and Virginia Tech Elite meet (Blacksburg, Va.) next weekend.