April 5, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- After having two weeks to tune up, Georgia's track and field teams travel to Gainesville, Fla., on Thursday before competing at the Florida Relays on Friday and Saturday.
The men's hammer and the women's discus will start the action at noon on Friday. The first collegiate event on the track is the women's 100-meter hurdles at 12:50 p.m. Saturday's events crank up with the men's discus Invite at 11 a.m. and then the women's sprint medley relay (200-200-400-800) at noon on the meet's second day.
Along with the 12th-ranked Lady Bulldogs and the 18th-ranked Georgia men, the top-ranked Florida men and 11th-ranked Gator women will be hosting a number of Southeastern Conference and ACC teams at the Percy Beard Track.
After opening the season with the Georgia Relays in Athens and then competing at the Yellow Jacket Invitational in Atlanta during the month of March, Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton and the coaching staff have been preparing their teams for this high-level competition.
"This meet will be the first big meet of the outdoor season," said Norton. "It is big because of two things: the number of teams competing and the high level of competition. We will need to be very good this weekend in order to have a good showing because there will not be a lot of places to mask or hide sub-par performances."
This will mark the third consecutive year that Georgia has returned to Gainesville for the Florida Relays and Norton is confident this test helps his teams when the postseason arrives.
"Over the last few years since we have resumed attending the Florida Relays, the meet has been a good start to our April-May push towards the postseason," Norton said.
At the Florida Relays in 2011, Hilenn James vaulted into the No. 2 spot in the school record books with a shot put toss of 52 feet, 11 ½ inches as Danny Neff and Ashley Shiver posted personal-best times in the 1500 and the women's 4x400 team also ran their fastest time of the year. There are 15 marks in the Georgia men's and women's top-10 lists that have come from this meet, dating back to 1975.
"The expectation is to come out of the meet with seasonal bests," explained Norton. "If we can do that against good, inspired competition, that will show us that we are ready to compete."
There are a handful of Georgia team members who are ranked in the top 15 nationally heading into the Relays. True freshman Morgann Leleux made her outdoor debut by tying a school record in the pole vault after clearing 14 feet, 3 ½ inches, which is No. 2 mark in the nation behind Arkansas senior and 2012 NCAA indoor champion Tina Sutej. Leleux will not be traveling to this weekend's meet.
Senior Matt Cleaver is leading the SEC and is No. 4 on the national list in the steeplechase after winning the event at the season opener with at time of 8:55.74. In the women's high jump, junior Saniel Atkinson is tied for fourth on the national list with fellow SEC jumper Krystle Schade thanks to a mark of 6 feet.
After reaching 140 feet last year in the discus, James exploded for a 180-foot throw in the first meet of 2012 and is leading the SEC (No. 4 nationally). This performance moved James into the third spot in the school record books.
Also hanging at the No. 4 spot in the national rankings is senior Brian Moore. Moore watched one of his attempts measure 243-9 in the javelin, which is the second-best effort of his career, at the Yellow Jacket Invitational as he tries for his third straight SEC title.
Senior Colleen Felix is No. 5 nationally and is leading the SEC in the women's triple jump. Felix traveled 43-1 at the Georgia Relays. On the men's side, senior Aaron LaGarde has the nation's ninth-longest mark at 51-7.75 in the triple jump.
Live results and recaps from the Florida Relays will be posted on georgiadogs.com.