Bulldog Track Boasts Seven More NCAA Qualifiers
May 30, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- Seven more members of Georgia's track and field teams qualified for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA East Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday.
Freshmen Alex Poursanidis and Alex Larsson started the second day for the Bulldogs by both qualifying in the men's hammer. Senior Johnathan Smith (100-meter dash), senior Megan Malasarte (800), junior Drew Branch (400 hurdles) and sophomore Leontia Kallenou and freshman Tatiana Gusin (high jump) followed with top-12 finishes to also extend their season.
In addition, Smith advanced to the 200 quarterfinals on Saturday. This gives the Bulldogs 12 NCAA qualifiers with another day of action coming.
"We have had a lot of good things happen this week and we are not finished yet," said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton. "Each day we have qualified a good number for Nationals and advanced some to the next round. As good as we have been, we have also experienced some major failures. We really didn't get the job done in the men's 800 and shot put. We need to take care of business on Saturday to stay on track for Eugene. I thought we were mostly really good out there."
On Thursday, junior Brandon Lord (10,000 meters), senior Elizabeth Tepe (hammer throw), junior Nick Vena (shot put), sophomore Freya Jones (javelin) and sophomore Chanice Porter (long jump) punched their ticket to the final round of the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 11-14.
Another five Georgia team members, including junior Carly Hamilton who has yet to run in the 1500 quarterfinals, advanced to the quarterfinal rounds of their track events on Thursday.
All qualifiers for Eugene will be joining junior Garrett Scantling and sophomore Maicel Uibo (decathlon) and freshman Kendell Williams and junior Quintunya Chapman (heptathlon) who have already advanced to the NCAA finals in the multi-events.
Junior Caleb Ebbets and Uibo are scheduled to compete in the men's pole vault to start the day on Saturday at noon. Uibo is ranked second nationally in the decathlon and is continuing to train through this meet. The men's 4x100 relay, which includes Johnathan Smith, will take part in the quarterfinal and will be Georgia's first action on the track at 6 p.m. during the meet's third and final day.
Poursanidis, a native of Paphos, Cyprus, followed Vena's path of setting personal records in Jacksonville and easily qualifying for Eugene. Opening with a throw of 215 feet, 8 inches, Poursanidis worked up to a mammoth career-best effort of 227-3 on his fifth attempt to win the hammer competition. This edged Kent State junior Matthias Tayala for the Regional title by one inch after Tayala opened with a 227-2.
Poursanidis' throw ranks eighth on Georgia's competitive all-time list and coming into this week's Regionals, this would be the nation's seventh-best throw this year. To put an exclamation point on his performance, he had a sixth throw of 221-3, which also would have been a personal best.
His true freshman teammate Alex Larsson also continued his steady run to earn a plane ticket to Oregon. The Uppsala, Sweden, native had four throws that measured at least 212 feet, including a fourth throw of 214-2 to take seventh overall and qualify.
Including Tepe on the women's side, the Bulldog hammer throwers have now swept their SEC competitions, recorded three NCAA qualifiers and had Poursanidis earn SEC Men's Freshman Field Athlete of the Year honors since May 15.
Similar to the performance she had to win the SEC meet, Kallenou cleared 5-9.75 and 5-11.25 on her first try and shared the competition win in Jacksonville. This marks her sixth consecutive victory, including both 2014 conference titles and this year's NCAA indoor crown. Kallenou had her breakthrough at last year's NCAAs by taking fourth in Eugene.
The surprise in the women's high jump came from true freshman Tatiana Gusin. The Orhei, Moldova, native had previously hit a high mark of 5-9.25 to win the Spec Towns home meet. However, Gusin posted a third attempt clearance at 5-9.75 on Friday before going over the bar safely at 5-11.25, also on her third and final attempt. Gusin tied for eighth at her most recent meet to score for Georgia at SECs.
Malasarte made a statement in her 800 quarterfinal by running the nation's second-fastest time this year and the second-fastest time of her career. The Fayetteville native won the opening heat by more than a second with a 2:02.31. After earning a First Team All-America certificate in 2012, Malasarte was 13th at last year's Nationals in Eugene.
Also advancing to his second NCAA Outdoor Championships in a row was Branch in the 400 hurdles. Branch tucked in behind the first three finishers in the opening heat and was 10th overall with a time of 51.12. The Alpharetta native was 23rd after finishing his lap and hurdles at last year's NCAA meet.
Smith clocked his fastest time in the 100 since he matched his personal best of 10.20 to win the Spec Towns Invitational in Athens. The Apple Valley, Ca., native ran a 10.27 to take second in his heat and eighth overall. This will mark Smith's second consecutive trip to Oregon after he was 20th at last year's NCAA Championships.
Six races later, Smith returned to the North Florida track and qualified for the 200 quarterfinals. The NCAA Division III three-time All-American at Guilford College before transferring to the Bulldogs clocked a 20.86 to be the 14th qualifier out of 24.
Smith will race in the 200 quarterfinals at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday.
Finishing just two spots and one foot from qualifying in the women's discus was senior Hilenn James. The 2013 First Team All-American indoors in the shot put watched her fourth discus attempt travel 172 feet. However, she had fouls on her final two attempts and ended up 14th overall during just the second meet of her 2014 season.
While Williams is already set to compete at the NCAA Championships as the country's top heptathlete, she competed in the high jump at the East Prelims. Williams cleared 5-9.75 and tied for 17th.
Junior Charles Grethen fell short of advancing to his second straight trip to the NCAA meet in the 800. Grethen ran a 1:49.99 to finish seventh in his heat and 19th overall as the first three in his heat advanced.
Also of note, junior Bret McDaniel was 30th in the steeplechase quarterfinal. McDaniel ran her laps in 10:31.12 and was 20 seconds off from qualifying. On the men's side, sophomore Jamario Calhoun, who will also be running on the 4x100 relay, was 39th in the triple jump after soaring 47-7.25.
Results and recaps from the NCAA East Prelims 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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