Freshman Morgann Leleux is expected to square off versus some of the nation's top professional pole vaulters at the Drake Relays.
April 25, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- As a final tune-up before the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships on May 10-13, Georgia's track and field teams travel to a pair of elite competitions this week as the Bulldogs continue to position themselves for their postseason run.
A majority of the 17th-ranked Lady Bulldogs and 19th-ranked Georgia men will fly to Des Moines, Iowa, on either Wednesday or Thursday for the historic Drake Relays.
Besides the start of the heptathlon and decathlon, the first collegiate event of the Drake Relays is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET on Thursday with the women's 800-meter run. Action gets rolling again around 10 a.m. on Friday and finishes late in the afternoon on Saturday.
The Bulldog throwing corps will be traveling to San Diego on Wednesday as a majority of the 11 throwers prepare for a pair of meets. Sophomore Hilenn James, senior Eve Machovec, senior Nikola Lomnicka and freshman Allison Updike will join sophomore Justin Welch, freshman Ray Drew, sophomore Burke McCarty, junior Petr Novotny, sophomore Caleb Whitener, senior Brian Moore and sophomore Braydon Anderson versus some of the nation's top talent.
James and Machovec are scheduled to throw the discus at 3 p.m. on Thursday to start the first of four events for the Bulldogs at the OTC Pre-Olympic Meet. Georgia will also have competitors in the men's discus and the men and women's shot put at the meet.
On Friday, the Triton Invitational kicks off at the same facility with Lomnicka in the women's hammer at 1 p.m. The women's Invitational discus and the open discus will also be on Friday before seven more throwing events on Saturday also starting at 1 p.m.
As usual, Georgia experienced a wide range of successes at the Drake Relays in 2011. Welch followed up a second-throw foul with a career-long effort of 225 feet, 2 inches to win the hammer throw at last year's meet. This was the seventh-best throw in school history.
In her final season as a Lady Bulldog, Bridget Lyons left the competition behind to win the 10,000-meter run with the second-fastest time of her career. Lyons registered a time of 33:31.14 to top 26 other competitors from around the country.
The two-time defending SEC indoor triple jump champion Colleen Felix also managed a third-place finish in the javelin at Drake. Felix lifted her sixth and final throw 156-2, which is only an inch short of her personal best.
Both Brett Richardson and Brandon Lord clocked times in their distance events that added them to the school's all-time top-10 lists. Richardson was fourth in the 10,000 with a 29:57.54, which remains the sixth-best time in school history. Lord, who improved his career best to 14:03.33 at the Mt. SAC Relays last weekend, was fourth in the 5000 with his previous best time of 14:09.69, which was No. 5 in the Georgia record books.
Georgia's 4x100 team also had a season-best time of 39.91 for fifth-place honors last year in Des Moines.
A variety of Bulldogs are ranked amongst the best in the SEC and in the country heading into this final weekend of the regular season. On the men's side, senior Torrin Lawrence is in a three-way tie in the conference for third in the 400-meter dash (45.65, which is sixth nationally) and is fourth in the SEC (ninth nationally) in the 200 with a 20.51.
Sophomore Megan Malasarte has now clocked back-to-back 2:06s and is fourth in the SEC with a 2:06.05. Also on the distance side, Lord shot to No. 2 in the league with a 14:03.33 in the 5000 at the Mt. SAC Relays.
In the women's 5000, junior Kristie Krueger set a school record at Mt. SAC and is also second in the conference after registering a 16:00.66 (16th nationally). Running twice that distance, senior Morgan VanGorder clocked a personal-best 35:13.35 last weekend and now has the third-best 10,000 time in the SEC.
Senior Phillip Adams broke 51 seconds for the first time at the Spec Towns Invitational and is hanging with the third-fastest 400 hurdles time (50.99) across the SEC this year.
Similar to Krueger, senior Matt Cleaver set a school record in the steeplechase at Mt. SAC with a time of 8:42.84, which topped his previous record set at last year's NCAA East Regionals. This is leading the SEC and is No. 7 nationally. Junior Leslie Boozer has the fourth-best steeplechase time (10:24.15) for the women.
Junior Saniel Atkinson is in a three-way tie for the SEC lead in the high jump. Atkinson opened the year jumping 6 feet, which is tied for fifth nationally, and is in pursuit of her first conference title. Atkinson is also ranked seventh in the triple jump.
Felix is leading the triple jump with a mark of 43-1 (seventh nationally) as she attempts to win her first SEC outdoor crown. Felix is the two-time defending SEC indoor champion in the event.
In the pole vault, Georgia has the No. 2 performer in women's competition (both in the SEC and in the country) and the No. 4 SEC performer for the men. Freshman Morgann Leleux set a school record in the event at the Spec Towns meet after clearing 14-4. Sophomore walk-on Caleb Ebbets soared 17-5.50, which is fourth in the SEC this year, at Spec Towns to move to fourth in the school record books.
Another Bulldog also posted a career performance during Georgia's second and final home meet of the year. Whitener unleashed an effort of 61-11.75 to put himself in the No. 2 spot in the conference standings and 13th nationally.
Also in the throws, James is second in the discus (180-4, ninth nationally) and third in the shot put (51-11.75) during her second season with UGA. McCarty is 10 feet behind the SEC leader in the men's discus with a top mark of 180-10, which puts him third on the league's performance list.
Georgia has positioned itself with the second-longest women's hammer throw in the conference and the third-longest hammer throw for the men. Lomnicka, who has won the last two SEC crowns and is currently ranked 16th nationally, is second (201-4) to LSU's Brieanna Kenneday (205-3) while Welch has the third-longest this year at 206-10.
The Bulldogs' two-time defending SEC men's javelin champion (Moore) is currently third on the SEC performance list and 10th nationally with a top throw this year of 243-9. On the women's side, Updike has moved into a 10-foot conference lead at 167 (12th nationally) while Felix is fourth (146-6), which is where she finished at the 2011 SEC Championships.
Georgia has the second-, third- and fifth-best scores in the decathlon this season. Freshman Garrett Scantling surged deep into the Bulldog record books with his first collegiate decathlon, scoring 7,410 points in Athens. Senior Michael Ayers (7,365), who was a First Team All-American last year at the NCAA Championships, and senior Cory Holman (7,298) are third and fifth, respectively.
Junior Lucie Ondraschkova has also amassed the third-best heptathlon point total in the SEC with 5,427 points, which stands at the country's No. 14 mark.
Live results and recaps for each day of the Drake Relays will be posted at georgiadogs.com. Results and a recap from the Triton Invitational and Pre-Olympic meet will also be located on the Bulldogs' website.
Comments From The Bulldog Coaching Staff On The Drake Relays:
Georgia distance coach Jeff Pigg: "The tradition of Drake is very special. I ran there while an athlete at Missouri, and one thing that I remember is that Georgia was one of the schools at the meet that made it `Big Time'. It is a great meet, and since the site is now hosting NCAAs, the world-class facility makes it even better. I think the meet director Brian Brown is doing a great job continuing to build this meet. For distance, it is crunch time in the classroom as well. I have learned to not push too hard as a coach when kids are taking tests so many of my kids will not run this weekend. Kristie Krueger is planning on running the 1500 Invitational, Megan Malasarte will run the 800 Invitational, Leslie Boozer will run the steeplechase and Abbie Robinson will run her first 10,000, which she has been preparing for her entire career. J.P. Hackney, Luke Baker and Kyle James will run the 10k for the men as they continue preparations for the SEC. In addition, Aaron Evans will run the 800 Invitational as well as Daniel Grass. We are looking forward to the meet."
Georgia multi-events/jumps/pole vault coach Petros Kyprianou: "The Drake Relays is a historic meet and a glorious festivity for our sport. The crowd is excited to support the competitors and athletes are eager to participate in front of an electrifying crowd. If the weather holds up, (forecast for both days calls for cooler temperatures and rain), we will be witnessing some big performances. The highlight of my athletes' participation is Morgann's (Leleux) invitation to the Special section of the women's vault. This event will feature the top six American professional vaulters that are ranked in the top 15 in the world in Jenn Suhr, Mary Saxer, Jillian Schwartz, Lacy Janson and Kylie Hutson. It will be a nice preview of the U.S. Olympic trials and should be an invaluable experience for our freshman. In addition, it will be a good opportunity for some of our athletes to run, jump and throw on the track that will host the outdoor NCAAs this June."