Senior Aaron Evans won the 800-meter dash to clinch his spot in the finals at the NCAA Championships.
May 25, 2012
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. ---
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- Seven additional members on Georgia's track and field teams qualified for the national finals during the second of three days at the NCAA East Prelims in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday.
For the third straight time out, senior Matt Cleaver set a school record in the 3000-meter steeplechase to lock down his second consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships.
In the field, freshman Morgann Leleux (pole vault), sophomore Justin Welch (hammer throw) and junior Saniel Atkinson-Grier (high jump) all punched their tickets to the finals of the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 6-9.
Sophomore Hilenn James (shot put), sophomore Burke McCarty (discus) and freshman Allison Updike (javelin) became the first Georgia team members at the meet to earn a trip to NCAAs with their performances on Thursday.
Also, the Bulldogs had one qualifier for the 200 quarterfinals during Friday's competition.
"Overall, we hit every one but one the whole day so I'd say it's been a good two days," Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton said. "We are looking at this as a qualifying meet. We are not trying to win or hit personal bests, just meet the advancement regulations. We talked about it (Friday morning) that it won't take miracles to advance and it didn't."
The top 48 competitors in every event from across the East Region are battling for the top 12 spots. The same setup is occurring simultaneously during the West Prelims in Austin, Texas. The 12 who qualify in each event at both the East and West Prelims will advance to the finals of the NCAA Championships .
Cleaver, who was coming off his second SEC title in a row, took third in his heat with the fourth-fastest time overall (8:41.86). This tops his previous school record time of 8:42.64 and gives the Marietta native the 10th-best time in the nation this year. Cleaver finished 20th at the 2011 NCAA finals.
"Cleaver just continues his progress at becoming one of the nation's best in his event," said Norton. "He ran with some of the best in the nation tonight."
Coming off an SEC title in Baton Rouge, Leleux locked down her spot at the NCAA finals in the pole vault. Passing on the first three heights, Leleux had second-attempt clearances on her next two bars. Leleux, who was the 2012 NCAA indoor runner-up, was one of nine competitors to clear 13 feet, 5 ¼ inches. Once the competition was whittled down to 12, the officials ended the event and confirmed the spots for that dozen, which featured five jumpers from the SEC.
The 2012 SEC Freshman Field Athlete of the Year is trying to become the first Lady Bulldog pole vaulter since Kierney Hiteshew (Jackson) in 2006 to earn All-America honors during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Leleux owns the UGA outdoor school record after clearing 14-6.75 at SECs.
Welch earned his second consecutive trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the hammer throw. Welch warmed up to a second effort that measured 215-6, which is the exact distance of his qualifying throw last year and his second-best throw in 2012, to earn the right for three more throws.
After taking 22nd at last year's finals in Des Moines following a fifth-place finish at the 2011 East Prelims, Welch will be returning after finishing fourth overall in Jacksonville on Friday as his top mark reached 216-5 on his sixth and final throw.
Atkinson-Grier also tied for fifth in her event to advance to the finals of her first NCAA outdoor meet. After having to clear 5-9.75 on her third attempt in the high jump, Atkinson-Grier soared over 5-11.25 on her opening try to surge into the top 12 qualifiers.
The runner-up at the 2012 SEC outdoor meet finished tied for 11th at this year's NCAA Indoor Championships. This will be Atkinson-Grier's first trip to the national outdoor meet after finishing 18th at the 2011 NCAA East Prelims to end her season.
"(Saniel) looked a little shaky in her first couple of jumps, but by her final clearance she was as good as anyone in the field," Norton said.
Lawrence made the best out of his first collegiate meet in his hometown of Jacksonville. He was the runner-up in the second heat with the fourth-fastest time in the 400 quarterfinals. The four-time indoor All-American clocked a 45.74.
This will mark Lawrence's first time competing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships after suffering an injury before last year's meet. Lawrence won the 2010 NCAA indoor 400 title.
"Torrin ran a perfect race for what he had to do, never really straining at any point in the race," said Norton.
Evans was the only Bulldog to win his event to clinch a spot at the NCAA finals. The Bermuda native finished in a season-best time of 1:47.31, which is the 11th-best time in the nation this year. Evans will be making his first trip back to the NCAA finals since taking third at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.
In addition to Evans' third-place finish two years ago, he was also fourth at the 2012 NCAA indoor meet.
"Evans was in complete control, just like he always is in his top races," said Norton. "He's on track to reach his goal of winning an NCAA title."
A second 800 runner also advanced to the NCAA finals in Megan Malasarte. Malasarte finished fourth in her heat and eighth overall to get one of the at-large qualifying spots. After advancing to just the second round at last year's NCAA East Prelims, Malasarte ran the second-fastest time of her career (2:05.78) to earn her first opportunity at nationals.
The one that did not go Georgia's way on Friday was sophomore Hilenn James in the discus. James, who has already qualified for the finals in the shot put, had two fouls and one fair throw of 134-5 to take 40th place. She entered the competition with the seventh-best throw in the nation (183-5).
Georgia actually already has 11 student-athletes qualified for Des Moines. Junior heptathlete Lucie Ondraschkova gets the opportunity to bypass the NCAA Prelims since the top 24 heptathletes and decathletes nationally earn an automatic pass to Des Moines. Ondraschkova is No. 21 on the list after scoring a season-high 5,443 points to take sixth at the SEC Championships. The Opava, Czech Republic, native was 17th at last year's NCAA Championships.
The Bulldogs also had a qualifier for Saturday's quarterfinals in the men's 200. Sophomore Waymon Storey, who still also has the 4x100 relay to go on Saturday, sped to a finish of 21.07 after taking fourth in the final heat and 25th overall.
Storey will race in the 200 quarterfinals at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday.
After Cleaver's run in the men's steeplechase, junior Leslie Boozer came up with her own personal-best finish on the women's side. Boozer improved her No. 3 time in the Lady Bulldog record books to 10:23.35 to take 24th overall. This ends Boozer's third season at Georgia.
In addition, senior Cory Holman, who finishes his career as the school record holder in the heptathlon (5,873 points), had a false start in the 110 hurdles to wrap up his time as a Bulldog. He also holds five other top-10 spots in the Georgia record books, including the No. 2 spot in the 60 hurdles (7.86).
Also of note, senior Aaron LaGarde concluded his Bulldog career after taking 25th (49-3.50) in the triple jump.
Live results and recaps from each day of the NCAA East Prelims will be found at georgiadogs.com.
Bulldog Qualifiers For The 2012 NCAA Championships
Name Event Mark/Place
Aaron Evans 800m ^1:47.31/1st
Matt Cleaver Steeplechase *8:41.86/4th
Allison Updike Javelin 157-7/4th
Justin Welch Hammer throw 216-5/4th
Torrin Lawrence 400m 45.74/4th
Megan Malasarte 800m 2:05.78/5th
Morgann Leleux Pole vault 13-5.25/T5th
Saniel Atkinson High jump 5-11.25/T5th
Burke McCarty Discus 183-2/6th
Hilenn James Shot put ^52-8.75/7th
$Lucie Ondraschkova Heptathlon 5,443 pts./21st
* - school-record; ^ - season-best mark; $ - Ondraschkova bypassed the NCAA East Prelims because she finished the season with one of the top 24 scores in the heptathlon nationwide
Bulldogs Advancing To Later Rounds At NCAA East Prelims
Waymon Storey 200m 21.07/25th