Two-time SEC steeplechase champion Matt Cleaver is one of nine Bulldogs headed to the Husky Classic (Seattle, Wash.) in search of career-best times.
Feb. 7, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's track and field teams split up to compete in a pair of meets on Friday and Saturday during the final regular season tune-up before the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships arrive on February 22-24.
Forty-five Bulldogs will be making the trip to the VT Elite Meet in Blacksburg, Va., while nine Georgia distance runners are slated to race at the two-day Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash.
The Lady Bulldogs moved from 11th to 10th in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll as the postseason nears.
The nation's second-ranked long jumper, Georgia true freshman Chanice Porter, will start the action for UGA in Blacksburg at 5 p.m. on Friday. Five Bulldogs are scheduled to compete in a pair of 5000-meter races to kick things off on Friday night in Seattle.
"We have reduced the numbers that will be going to Virginia Tech this week," said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton. "Originally I thought we would be taking over 50 but because of some class conflicts and minor aches and pains, the number will be less. Our athletes have always done well at Virginia Tech and we always do well the last meet before SECs. Both of those points of history come together in one place because the last meet just happens to be at Virginia Tech.
"The competition is always good with three to five SEC teams and three to five ACC teams among those in attendance. All things are in place for a great weekend. And then we get about 10 days to recover and before preparing for the SEC/NCAA stretch."
Georgia's distance runners have also had immense success at the Husky Classic over the last two years. Six all-time top-10 marks in the school record books have been set during that period, including five in 2012. In fact, Aaron Evans set a school record in the 800 last year with a time of 1:47.88. Evans rode that momentum to an SEC crown and an All-America certificate.
"The group that is going to the Seattle meet is going for no other reason than to run fast times," said Norton. "The races out there should be set up to have fast paces so the runners only have to work on maintaining the tempo. In sending our people out there, I am anticipating every one of them to set personal bests because this will be the best opportunity for them to do that. Some have already done so this season in meets and races that were not set up to run fast.
"It should be easier to run fast this week because everyone in the race will not be jockeying and fighting for position; they will be focusing on running fast. Running fast this weekend has historically translated to our group being more confident and competitive at the SEC Indoor Championships two weeks later."
There are currently 10 Georgia team members who are ranked in the top 20 nationally traveling to this weekend's action. Porter leads the way with the nation's second-best mark in the long jump (21 feet, ½ inches), which is also an SEC-leading performance. Fellow true freshman Shaunae Miller has the fourth-best 400 time (a school record mark of 52.96) in the nation and in the SEC after only running in her featured event once.
After suffering a season-ending injury in the first indoor meet of 2012, senior Lucie Ondraschkova is ranked third in the SEC and seventh nationally in the pentathlon this year. The Czech Republic native has already posted personal bests in three of the pentathlon's five events en route to the No. 3 score (4,072 points) all-time for the Lady Bulldogs.
Junior Hilenn James, who rested last weekend, will compete for the second time this year after setting a school record in the shot put at the Razorback Invitational her first time out. Her mark of 55-1.50 is tied for eighth nationally and is second in the league.
Senior Saniel Atkinson-Grier is tied for ninth nationally and fourth in the league after clearing 6 feet in the high jump during her last time out. Junior Megan Malasarte, who is one of the nine traveling west to Washington, also competed for the first time last weekend and improved her 800 career best to 2:07.68, which ranks 19th nationally and fourth in the SEC.
On the men's side, Georgia has a pair of student-athletes who are currently No. 5 and No. 7 on the national list in the heptathlon. Freshman Maicel Uibo, who has competed in only one collegiate heptathlon in his career, shot to fifth on the national performance list (second in the SEC) after tallying the second-best total in Georgia history of 5,755 points at the Razorback meet. His sophomore teammate Garrett Scantling stands at seventh nationally and third in the SEC after scoring his own personal-best tally of 5,619 in Arkansas.
Another Bulldog duo has two of the country's top 16 spots in the shot put, which is how many the NCAA field consisted of in 2012. Sophomore Nick Vena, who is in his first season with Georgia after becoming a two-time ACC champion at Virginia, is 10th on the national list (second in the SEC) with a mark of 62-6.75 while junior Caleb Whitener is 16th nationally (third in the SEC) with a top effort of 60-9.25.
Live results and recaps from both the VT Elite Meet and the Husky Classic will be located at georgiadogs.com