May 11, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. --- The Georgia women's team surged into second place on the third day of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships thanks in part to another two individual titles in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday.
In the team standings, 10th-ranked Georgia women have scored 49 points and trail Arkansas by just one point. The third-place team, LSU, is 18 points behind the Lady Bulldogs.
The seventh-ranked Bulldog men are in fourth place with 31 points while the Arkansas men have scored 57 points to hold a 10-point lead over Florida.
In addition on Saturday, senior Leslie Boozer shattered the school record in the 3000-meter steeplechase for runner-up honors and four more Bulldogs qualified for finals on Sunday.
The meet begins on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET with the women's javelin and men's triple jump. Georgia has its first competitors of the day in the javelin with freshman Freya Jones and freshman Jamario Calhoun battling the field.
After the final event of the day, Georgia head coach Wayne Norton was pleased with another two champions as well as Boozer's record-setting finish in the steeplechase.
"It's been a great week for us and day three was another exceptional one after we won some SEC championships," said head coach Wayne Norton. "We have more battles waiting (on Sunday) to see if our teams can stay around where they are ranked right now in the team standings. But I think this has been a great meet so far and it's a great time to be a Georgia Bulldog.
"One of the biggest highlights for me was Boozer in the steeplechase. She took second and probably ran the perfect race if you go back and look at the video. She did everything she needed to do and made that kick at the end. Even though the Arkansas girl kicked at the very end of it to pull it out, Boozer did a great job. I am very proud of a senior having that type performance at her final SEC outdoor meet. It means big points for us but it means more to us than that. It shows the four years of effort and training that Leslie has put in for this program."
Boozer, who was fourth with a 10:25.70 at last year's SEC Championships, finished in 10:02.02 to take second. This trimmed six seconds off of her personal best and topped Sarah Madebach's school record time of 10:07.16 set at the 2008 NCAA Championships. Boozer's time is the country's seventh fastest this year.
Georgia's two first-place finishers on Saturday experienced a range of emotions with their championships. Atkinson-Grier, a native of Upper Marlboro, Md., cleared 6 feet, ¾ inches to win her first conference title in the high jump. Atkinson-Grier, who had finished as the SEC runner-up three separate times, cleared all three of her heights on her first try to clinch the victory.
"Saniel in the high jump was a boost because she was only ranked about fifth coming into the meet so for her to come out and win it was great," Norton said. "And I'm happy for her being a senior who has finished second three times to win it this time around."
"I've been competing in the SEC for the last four years and I finally have won an SEC championship," said Atkinson-Grier. "I really wanted to bring my team a good 10 points and wanted to capture that gold after finishing second place three times at the SEC meets. I wanted to do my absolute best today, I wanted to do whatever it took to win this thing. I'm happy I was able to come through with the win."
Leleux, a native of New Iberia, La., won her second consecutive SEC outdoor pole vault championships after going over the bar at 13-9.25 on her second attempt. Leleux passed on the opening two heights and then was pushed to her third try at 13-5.25.
Her back-to-back titles in the event is the first for the Georgia women since Kierney Hiteshew-Jackson accomplished the feat in 2005-06.
"It's very satisfying and I couldn't be more excited," Leleux said. "Last year, I gave myself a hard time when I didn't hit 4.50 (meters) and this year I hit it and was able to win SECs again. The wind was actually pretty rough today since every now and then you'd get a really good wind but every now and then you'd get that crosswind. Because it was so fast, it was pulling my pole. I'm looking forward to getting back in the game at NCAAs. It'll be a really good show with a lot of the top jumpers and hopefully I'm one of them."
The Georgia men went 3-4-6 in the shot put to add 14 points to their total. Sophomore Nick Vena led the way at his first SEC outdoor meet with a third throw that traveled 61-9.75. One spot behind Vena was junior Caleb Whitener, who also reached his top distance of 60-9.50 in the third round of throws.
Freshman Ashinia Miller rounded out the scoring in the event for the Bulldogs by taking sixth. His top throw of 58-4.50 came on his second attempt as the Georgia trio will now prepare for the NCAA East Regionals
In the women's long jump, freshman Chanice Porter followed up her win at this year's SEC indoor meet with a fourth-place finish on Saturday. Porter, who has battled a foot injury all year, started with a pair of jumps measuring 19-11 before soaring for a 20-4.25 mark. This added another five points to the Lady Bulldogs' total.
The Bulldogs also qualified sophomore Carly Hamilton in the women's 1500, freshman Shaunae Miller in the women's 400, freshman Briana Vaughn in the women's 100 and junior Johnathan Smith in the men's 100.
Hamilton won her heat in the 1500 and was third overall with a time of 4:22.61. Hamilton, who has set three separate school records this season including the 1500 mark, was 11th during the finals in 2012. She will race in the finals on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
Running for the first time in the 400 this outdoor season, Miller cruised across the finish line to win the third heat after finishing in 53.04. The 2013 NCAA indoor champion won her heat by more than a half second as she locked in her spot for the finals on Sunday at 5:10 p.m.
Smith grabbed the eighth and final qualifying spot in the men's 100 after earning runner-up honors in his heat. Clocking a career-best 10.20 at the Bulldogs' home meet, Smith shot across the line in 10.30 on Saturday. He will be racing on Sunday at 5:20 p.m.
In the women's 100, Vaughn was fourth in her heat but managed an eighth place overall finish to qualify for the finals. This marks Vaughn's best time in a month after she won three out of her first five meets in the event. She will compete in the finals at 5:30 p.m.
Also of note, sprinter and Bulldog wide receiver Justin Scott Wesley posted a season-best time of 10.40 to take 16th in the 100 prelims.
Live results and recaps from the SEC Championships will be located at georgiadogs.com.