Jan. 17, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's track and field teams will be opening up their season at the Auburn Indoor Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., for the second consecutive year on Saturday morning.
The Tigers are hosting the meet at the CrossPlex, a facility that opened in 2011 and will house the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships. This weekend, the fifth-ranked Lady Bulldogs and 13th-ranked Georgia men will line up against competitors from Auburn, Alabama (men-24th), LSU (women-8th; men-25th), Ole Miss (men-16th), Vanderbilt, Clemson, Florida State (men-7th; women-19th), Georgia Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Samford and Southern Mississippi.
The meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday morning with the women's weight throw. With 2013 Southeastern Conference hammer throw champion Elizabeth Tepe opening in the weight next week for the Lady Bulldogs, Georgia's first event of the day will be the women's long jump at noon. The men's 4x400-meter relay is the final event scheduled for 9:30 p.m.
"We have not talked much about the fact that this is the first meet but the team knows that because the indoor season is so brief, we have to make them all count," said Georgia head coach Wayne Norton. "We simply need to get off to a good start as a team because there is not a lot of time to build momentum. If there is such a thing as immediate momentum, that's what we need."
Norton believes his veteran leadership will be key to a strong start.
"I think we have enough of our experienced veterans traveling this week who will be able to set the tone for competition," Norton said. "Simply put, I am looking for a good start to a good season."
Twenty-three women and 16 men are scheduled to depart Athens for Auburn on Friday night. Seniors Leslie Boozer, Nicole DiMercurio, Megan Malasarte and Lucie Ondraschkova, juniors Quintunya Chapman, Greer Gafford, Carly Hamilton, Taylor Hollingsworth, Savannah Kirk and Morgann Leleux, sophomores Myasia Jacobs, Brooke Koblitz, Chanice Porter, Erika Ramsey and Maya Thomas, freshmen Rashan Brown, Jenn Cora, Holly Ebbets, Morgan Green, Tatiana Gusin, Leontia Kallenou, Georgia Stefanidi and Kendell Williams will all be competing for the Lady Bulldogs.
On the men's side, seniors Caleb Ebbets and Johnathan Smith, juniors Drew Branch and Charles Grethen, sophomores Ayrian Evans, Maurice Freeman, Brendan Hoban, Kisean Smith, Maicel Uibo and Wade Voyles and freshmen Henry Dwyer, Reggie Glover, Morgan Malanoski, Brian Sullivan, Brandon Thompson and Derrick White Jr. will be lining up for Georgia.
On the eve of the season opener, Norton said anxious to get 2014 season cranking.
"There is always a lot of anticipation heading into the first meet because as you expect great things, there are no guarantees," he said. "You go in with a lot of hope that won't be affected by anything before the meet starts. Of course once the meet starts, we need fulfill Jesse Jackson's plea and `keep hope alive.'"
Norton is optimistic that all of his newcomers will thrive in their first introduction to collegiate track and field.
"We want them to focus on competing based on their talent and their preparation and not think too much about this being their first meet and being exposed to SEC rivals," said Norton. "Many of them have been in big meets before so they have nothing to be anxious about. If they can treat it `like another meet', they will be fine."
This is the first of six regular season meet weekends for the Bulldogs. The teams will split up next weekend as one group will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., which is the site of this year's NCAA Indoor Championships, and another will make the trip to Nashville, Tenn., to compete at the Vanderbilt Indoor Invitational. The Commodores will be hosting the meet at Recreation Center, which is a multi-purpose facility that was recently completed.
The SEC Championships arrive in College Station, Texas, on February 27 - March 1 and the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque are scheduled for March 14-15.
Success At Last Year's Auburn Invitational: Three Georgia team members picked up wins at last year's season-opening meet. Leleux opened her second year by clearing 13 feet, 11 ¼ inches on her third attempt in the pole vault to win. Porter started her career by opening with a long jump mark of 20-4.25 to finish first. After transferring from Virginia, junior Nick Vena closed his six-throw series with a mark of 61-4.25 to win the shot put.
2013 Stars Returning: The Bulldogs pulled off a pair of top-20 finishes at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships as the Georgia women finished 10th (their top finish since taking fourth in 2007) and the men tied for 18th (their best finish since finishing 18th in 2001). UGA had an NCAA champion (Shaunae Miller - 400), three SEC champions (Porter - long jump, Hilenn James - shot put and Garrett Scantling - heptathlon) and six First Team-Americans who scored.
Along with all three SEC champions, Uibo, James, Hamilton and Ondraschova are scorers from last year's Nationals who are returning to the lineup. The Bulldog men have six scorers out of 10 returning from last year's conference meet. The Georgia women return eight of 11, including three of four from the Lady Bulldogs' fifth-place distance medley relay team.
Full results and a recap from the Auburn Invitational will be found at georgiadogs.com. Updates from the meet will be posted on Twitter at @UGA_XCTF.