Senior Caleb Whitener is one of three Bulldog shot putters ranked in the nation's top 10 headed into the final regular season meet.
April 24, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's track and field teams begin action at the historic Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday afternoon as the first five events of the decathlon begin.
Bulldog freshman Devon Williams begins the decathlon's 100-meter dash at 1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. With the final five events of the decathlon cranking back up at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, the first open event is scheduled for 5 p.m. that same day. Action continues through Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldog men take a No. 7 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national ranking into this week's meet. The Georgia women are No. 9 in this week's poll as the teams compete in their final regular season meet before the Southeastern Conference Championships arrive in Columbia, Mo., on May 9-12.
Georgia has 36 student-athletes listed on its travel roster for the Relays. With early morning and evening temperatures expected in the 40s and winds approaching nearly 20 miles-per-hour on Friday, the Bulldogs are hoping they have their usual success at Drake despite the conditions.
Two school records (Gwen Torrence, 200 - 51.60, 1987; men's 4x400 relay - 3:03.66, 1991) were established at past Drake Relays. A total of 15 different marks on Georgia's men and women's all-time top-10 lists also came from the track in Des Moines.
"We usually have a great experience at the Drake Relays primarily because at Drake we are respected, appreciated and treated well," said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton. "Even though the weather is always cooler or colder than what we are leaving behind in Georgia and it is almost always unpredictable, we have historically battled the climate as well as our opponents to have good results. The weather basically forces the athletes to focus more on competing. In other words, you have to go in and make up your mind that the weather is not going to be an excuse for not doing well."
Just like years in the past, top competition from across the country will be arriving in Des Moines to compete at the Relays. Norton is hoping his teams meet the coming challenges.
"It is one of those challenges that can help in one's development," Norton said. "This year's forecast is actually pretty good so we might not have to work on toughness skills. But it's a good meet that I hope we can continue to attend."
Georgia competed in a series of relays at last year's Drake Relays and much fewer individual events than one of their other regular season meets. The same trend will occur this season so Norton is optimistic that each competitor will concentrate on improving for their individual events while competing in the relays.
"Because it is a relay meet, some our runners will not have a chance to run individual races," said Norton. "It would be nice to be able to have everyone in the individual events we want them in leading up to the SEC, but we have to deal with the schedule as it is. The objective in the meet is to continue to work on being consistently good in our performances."
Williams was on a personal-best pace during his first collegiate decathlon at Georgia's home meet in early April. After scoring 3,939 points to move into third place at the Bulldog Decathlon, Williams took a fall during the 110 hurdles, which is considered one of his strongest events, and did not finish the competition.
"Devon is in very good shape as he was over 3,900 points following day one of the Bulldog Decathlon a couple of weeks ago before he was knocked down during the hurdles," said Bulldog multi-events coach Petros Kyprianou. "He will be ready to face some good competition and chilly weather conditions but as decathletes do, he will compete hard and have fun doing it! He will not have his teammates competing along side him but this will be a great opportunity to take leadership and shoot for an NCAA Championships qualifying score."
There were 20 competitors in the decathlon at last year's NCAA Championships and there were 22 on the women's side in the heptathlon. While a bulk of the top scores are expected to be tallied at the coming conference championships, Williams would currently need 7,200 points to be in the country's top 20.
With the SEC Championships set to arrive in two weeks and the NCAA East Regionals (Greensboro, N.C.) scheduled for May 23-25, Georgia currently has a host of competitors ranked in the top 10 nationally. The Bulldog men have nine, including freshman Maicel Uibo who is leading the country in the decathlon (8,223 points).
The Lady Bulldogs have seven, highlighted by freshman Shaunae Miller who has the fastest 200 time in the nation at 22.41. Miller was the 2013 NCAA indoor champion in the 400 and has yet to make her debut in the event outdoors.
Bulldog Record Holders: Justin Gaymon (400 hurdles), Chris Hill (javelin) and Gwen Torrence (200) are all former Bulldogs who own Drake Relays records. Gaymon clocked a 49.26 to win at the 2008 Drake Relays while Hill launched a toss measuring 268 feet, 1 inch at the same meet. Torrence set her record time of 22.40 as a professional during the 1994 Drake Relays.
Two Georgia competitors also own Drake Stadium records. Chris Hill also set the facility record in the javelin while still a Bulldog with his toss of 268-1 in 2008. Hyleas Fountain, who was competing for Nike in 2010, set the heptathlon record with 6,735 points that year.
SEC Athlete Of The Week: Junior Elizabeth Tepe was named the Southeastern Conference Co-Women's Field Athlete of the Week for the first time in her career after her performance at the War Eagle Invitational last weekend. A native of Parker, Colo., Tepe launched the longest throw of her career (200-5) on her fifth try to win her second career meet for the Lady Bulldogs. Tepe's mark improves her No. 5 spot all-time in the school record books and ranks 19th nationally with the second-best mark in the SEC this season (by only seven inches).
Adding Firepower For 2014: On Tuesday, Devon Williams' sister, Kendell Williams, signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Georgia and compete for the Bulldogs in 2014. Williams, a senior at Kell High School (Marietta), owns the U.S. Juniors record in both the heptathlon (5,578 points) and the pentathlon (4,068). She is included in the top five on the national high school lists in three individual events as well. Williams was a finalist at the World Junior Championships and is expected to fill the void when senior heptathlete Lucie Ondraschkova completes her outdoor eligibility this season.
Live results and recaps from the Drake Relays will be found at georgiadogs.com.