A sample of Georgia's 2014 freshmen
Jan. 13, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. --- Only five days remain before Georgia's track and field teams begin their 2014 indoor season and according to head coach Wayne Norton, training is on target for the Bulldogs' new arrivals.
In addition to the distance corps who trained with cross country, Norton and his coaching staff have welcomed in 12 new team members since the fall 2013 semester began.
The Bulldogs have 14 individuals returning who scored at last year's Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships, including all three of the teams' champions, and five of six scorers back from the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships to complement Georgia's fresh talent.
UGA opens at the Auburn Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday. The first event is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET and continue into the night.
"With the fall semester behind us and the training complete, we are now gearing up for the start of the 2014 season," said Norton. "As I look back to the preseason training, I can't help but take note that many of our newcomers really looked good in their transition to collegiate training."
Throws coach Don Babbitt has been working with Asianna Covington, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, on the women's side and Alex Larsson, who hails from Uppsala, Sweden, and Alex Poursanidis, who is from Paphos, Cyprus, as the newest members of the men's team.
"Our three freshmen hammer throwers, Asianna Covington, Alex Larsson and Alex Poursanidis, have shown a lot of promise and should be major contributors in 2014," said Norton. "Asianna has also made some improvements in her second event, the discus. Coach Babbitt has been keeping me informed of the progress that group has been making. They have committed themselves to doing things right and following directions."
Sprints coach Jon Stuart has added an array of weapons, including freshmen Reggie Glover (Orlando, Fla.), Derrick White (Lithia Springs, Ga.) and Brandon Thompson (Gainesville, Ga.). Glover had the nation's fastest high school 400-meter dash time (46.46) in 2013.
"Coach Jon Stuart has reported that the men's 4x400 relay team should get a nice boost from freshmen Reggie Glover and Derrick White, who have been hard at work in the fall," Norton said. "As long as they continue to progress from this point forward, we should hear some positive things about them throughout the season because workouts at practice have been pretty strong. Our third freshman Brandon Thompson has probably worked harder than his classmates and should contribute as well."
Another Bulldog assistant, Petros Kyprianou, has been working with the 2013 Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year, Marietta native Kendell Williams. Williams, who is the sister of current Bulldog Devon Williams, owns national records in the multi-events and won 11 GHSA state titles during her time at Kell High School.
Williams has been training with senior Lucie Ondraschkova, who was the runner-up in the pentathlon at last year's conference meet and earned First Team All-American honors at last year's NCAA meet following her five events.
"One of our most improved freshmen is Kendell Williams, who as a heptathlete has to master seven events," said Norton. "She has been doing well in her better events and has improved in her weaker events. Although it is only practice, she has added about five feet to her personal best in the shot put. Williams is adapting well to Coach Kyprianou's training structure. As the number one jump and combined events recruit in the country for 2013, she has not disappointed."
Kyprianou has also been working with Georgia Stefanidi (Pallini, Greece). Stefanidi has nearly reached 14 feet during competitions in the pole vault and is the younger sister of Katerina Stefanidi, who won the 2012 NCAA outdoor pole vault title for Stanford. Georgia Stefanidi will be joining two-time SEC champion and two-time NCAA runner-up Morgann Leleux in the pole vault at Georgia.
"We have lots of good freshmen but the last one I will name is Georgia Stefanidi," said Norton. "She is coming along in the pole vault and should give us a solid one-two punch along with Morgann Leleux."
Norton believes the preparation has been put in and now his newcomers will have to prove themselves against arguably the nation's top conference in track and field and the rest of the country's talent.
"Of course, these freshmen have to prove themselves in challenging SEC competition but the practices have been promising," said Norton. "And even though former NBA All-Star Allen Iverson downplayed the value and relevance of practice, for track and field it is still the best indication of what we can expect in the meets."
The Bulldogs start their 2014 season in Birmingham at the Crossplex facility on Saturday, January 18. Full results and a recap of the action will be found at georgiadogs.com.