Bulldog Track Takes Fourth, Fifth Versus Nation's Elite

May 18, 2014

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LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Georgia's track and field teams wrapped up the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships in Lexington, Ky., on Sunday with another batch of scorers versus a league that features 11 teams ranked in the top 10.

The combined Bulldog teams had 15 more scorers on Sunday, including a pair of runner-up finishes under sunny skies on Kentucky's track.

The Bulldog men completed the four-day event in fourth place with 92 points, which marks the third year out of the last four that Georgia has scored at least 90 points.  Texas A&M tallied 155 to capture the team championship while Arkansas (116.50) and Florida (93) made up the next two finishers.   

The Lady Bulldogs finished fifth overall with 70.50 points while Arkansas (123) edged Florida (116.50) for the team title.  Texas A&M (113) and Kentucky (104) made up the third and fourth-place teams, respectively.

Georgia had six champions in the meet.  After senior Elizabeth Tepe won the Bulldogs' fifth consecutive SEC women's hammer throw on Thursday, men's freshman Alex Poursanidis battled rainy, windy conditions on Friday to give UGA a SEC sweep in the event for the first time since Andras Haklits and Katie McCoy accomplished the feat in 2001 (Haklits and McCoy also both won in 2000). 

Later on the second day, freshman Kendell Williams locked down the Lady Bulldogs' first heptathlon crown since 2005 while sophomore Maicel Uibo won his second straight decathlon championship.  Tepe, Williams and Uibo all set facility records with their performances.

On Friday, junior Brandon Lord showcased a wire-to-wire victory in the 10,000 meters to give the Georgia men their first league crown in the event.  Saturday's Bulldog champion was sophomore Leontia Kallenou as she set a meet record with a personal best 6 feet, 3 ½ inches to win the high jump.

"On paper, our finishes don't look that great but really it was a hard-fought fifth and fourth because if you look at the teams both ahead of us and behind us, there are some really tough ones in there," said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton.  "Meets are not always just successful when you win the championship.  We had people compete hard and give us everything they had.  We've got a chance to move through Regionals and if things work out, we can possibly be fourth and fifth at Nationals with a good meet.  These are two teams that almost every time we leave a meet like this, we walk out with many more positives and with a good feeling.  Looking forward where we can go in the next couple of meets and as always, it's great to be a Georgia Bulldog."

After taking fifth twice in the 400 hurdles at SECs, junior Drew Branch broke through and locked down a personal-best finish in the event to finish with runner-up honors this time around.  Branch ran a 50.41 to soar into the nation's top-10 event and put eight more points on the scoreboard for the Bulldogs.  His time improves his No. 5 spot in the school record books.

One of Georgia's six SEC champions also added a runner-up finish and eight more points to the team point total.  Lord, who ran away with the 10,000 title a day before, tucked into the lead pack in the 5000 before separating himself with Arkansas' Stanley Kebenei.  The Chattanooga, Tenn., native finished second in the race with a time of 14:11.90, which was less than a second from the winner.

The Bulldogs got a big boost in the team race with 11 points in the shot put thanks to a pair of personal-best efforts.  Junior Nick Vena twice passed his former best effort and finished with a fifth throw of 64-7.25, which vaulted him past Kentucky's Brad Szypka (64-3) for third.  This improved Vena's No. 4 spot in the school record books.

Sophomore Ashinia Miller also finished with the best mark of his career at 64-1.25 for fifth.  The Jamaican native moved from sixth to fifth on the school's all-time list after opening Sunday's competition under 60 feet.  Georgia's final scorer in the shot was senior Caleb Whitener, who had a top effort of 60-1.25 on his third throw before launching three fouls in the finals.

The Georgia women got their first points of the day from junior Carly Hamilton in the 1500 finals.  The 2013 champion in the event started in the back of the pack before working herself into the lead on the third lap.  While Florida's Cory McGee pulled ahead of the field, Hamilton managed to hold off a couple competitors in the final straightway to score for the second consecutive year.

Hamilton's training partner, senior Megan Malasarte, also finished third in her signature event.  Leading for portions of the two laps in the 800, Malasarte ran a 2:04.23 to score at her eighth consecutive SEC Championships.  The Fayetteville native has the nation's sixth-best time and will now aim for another shot at an All-America certificate when the NCAA East Regionals arrive.

Hamilton partnered with another scorer, senior Nicole DiMercurio, to take the 7-8 spots in the 5000.  Out on their own for most of the race as the lead pack separated themselves, Hamilton recovered from her 1500 final to run a personal best 16:28.84, which ranks seventh on Georgia's all-time list.

DiMercurio, who scored in the 10,000 on Saturday night, finished eighth running half that distance on Sunday with a 16:28.56.  This is the eighth-best time in school history.

Senior Johnatham Smith shaved three spots off of his 2013 finish to take fifth in the 100 finals.  Smith, who joined his fellow finalists running into a 0.8 headwind, clocked a 10.45 in a race whose winner only managed a 10.31.

The Apple Valley, Ca., native returned to the track for the third time on Sunday (also ran in 4x100 relay) in the 200 finals and nailed down another two points.  Smith ran a 20.84 to finish just .01 out of a tie for sixth place as a -0.5 wind blew against the field.

Also in the sprints, sophomore Maurice Freeman, Branch, freshman Ayrian Evans and freshman Reggie Glover scored the team's final five points with a fourth-place finish in the 4x400 relay.  The quartet registered a 3:06.03, which ranks as the ninth-best time in school history.

Junior Braydon Anderson returned to the scoring column in the javelin after taking third in 2011.  Anderson hurled his third throw 220-7, which is the third-best throw of his career, to take eighth and add a point to Georgia's total.  This year's competition featured two throwers who set the facility record and Kentucky's Raymond Dykstra winning with a national-leading throw of 250-10.

The Bulldog 4x100 relay team also added a point by taking eighth place.  Glover, sophomore Jamario Calhoun, freshman Brandon Thompson and Smith combined to clock a 39.88 to be the third team across the finish line in the first heat.

True freshman Asianna Covington joined the scoring spree by taking eighth in the discus at her first SEC outdoor meet.  The Vancouver native worked up to a third throw of 159-8 to hold off the ninth-place finisher by two feet.

Following a brief break, Georgia returns to action at the NCAA East Regionals in Jacksonville, Fla., on May 29-31.  This meet will determine which Bulldogs will join Georgia's two heptathletes (Kendell Williams) and two decathletes (Garrett Scantling, Maicel Uibo) in Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Championships.

Results and recaps from the SEC Championships will be located at georgiadogs.com.  Updates about all Bulldog track and field news can be found on Twitter at @UGA_XCTF.

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