May 23, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The Bulldog track and field program is aiming to qualify as many individuals as possible when competition starts at the NCAA East Prelims in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday.
Those Georgia student-athletes who advanced to the Prelims traveled southeast to the University of North Florida's campus on Tuesday to compete on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Bulldog senior Phillip Adams and freshman Drew Branch will start the action in the first round of the 400-meter hurdles at 4:30 on Thursday
The top 48 competitors in every event, other than the heptathlon and decathlon, from across the East Region will be battling for the top 12 spots. The same setup will be occurring simultaneously during the West Prelims in Austin, Texas. The 12 who qualify in each event at both the East and West Prelims will advance to the finals of the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 6-9.
The Southeastern Conference leads the nation with 357 entries to the East and West Prelims with the Big Ten having 352 and the Pac-12 listing 331.
"With 48 entries per event, it makes it difficult to advance if you have a bad day," said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton. "In other words, to make it through you have to beat a minimum of 36 people. The odds are less favorable when you have to beat 36 and not 10 or 12. For the higher ranked athletes, they simply need to go in and compete hard and not allow the lower ranked ones to sneak up on them. And the lower ranked athletes must do their best and pray them someone makes some big mistakes.
"This competition is a qualifying round only. Each athlete must find out the advancement procedure to make it to the next round. For most events, there will be two rounds this week and for the most part the field size goes from 48 to 24 to the all important 12."
Junior heptathlete Lucie Ondraschkova gets the opportunity to bypass the NCAA Prelims since the top 24 heptathletes and decathletes nationally earn an automatic pass to Des Moines. Ondraschkova is No. 21 on the list after scoring a season-high 5,443 points to take sixth at the SEC Championships. The Opava, Czech Republic, native was 17th at last year's NCAA Championships.
Thirty-two UGA competitors are scheduled to compete. For the men, sophomore Waymon Storey (200), senior Torrin Lawrence (400), senior Aaron Evans (800), senior Matt Cleaver (steeplechase), sophomore Brandon Lord (5000), senior Cory Holman (110 hurdles and long jump), Adams and Branch (400 hurdles), Adams, Storey, junior Eric Harris and freshman Justin Scott-Wesley (4x100 relay), Adams, freshman Chris Foster, Branch and Lawrence (4x400 relay), sophomore Caleb Ebbets (pole vault), senior Aaron LaGarde (triple jump), sophomore Caleb Whitener and junior Petr Novotny (shot put), sophomore Burke McCarty, Novotny and freshman Ray Drew (discus), sophomore Justin Welch (hammer throw) and sophomore Braydon Anderson (javelin) will be gunning for their invitation to the Drake University facility during the first week of June. In addition, junior Daniel Grass will be traveling as a relay alternate.
Sophomore Megan Malasarte (800), freshman Carly Hamilton (1500), junior Leslie Boozer (steeplechase), junior Kristie Krueger (5000), senior Morgan VanGorder (10,000), junior Saniel Atkinson (high jump), freshman Morgann Leleux (pole vault), senior Colleen Felix, junior Maria Augutis and Atkinson (triple jump), sophomore Hilenn James (shot put and discus), senior Nikola Lomnicka (hammer throw) and freshman Allison Updike (javelin) all were in the top 48 on the women's side.
Georgia has 18 individuals or relay teams currently ranked in the top 12 in the East Region. Leleux is headlining the group as the top-ranked women's pole vaulter at the meet. The New Iberia, La., cleared a school record height of 14 feet, 6 ¾ inches to win her first SEC title in Baton Rouge last weekend.
The Lady Bulldogs also have a pair of competitors who have marks ranked in the top three in the region. James, who is also No. 18 on the shot put list, has the third-longest discus throw (183-5) after moving to No. 2 on Georgia's all-time top-10 list.
Updike, who like Leleux captured a league championship at her first SEC Outdoor Championships, is third in the javelin standings with a top effort of 167 feet.
Welch is the top-ranked competitor from the men's team at the No. 4 spot in the hammer. The Luckey, Ohio, native lifted the hammer a season-best distance of 218-11 to earn runner-up honors at the SEC meet.
Drew, who is also a sophomore defensive end for the Bulldog football team, was the 48th and final competitor selected in the discus. He has a top mark of 170-3 and was 14th at last week's SEC Championships.
Drew will join fellow football teammate Scott-Wesley in Jacksonville. Scott-Wesley, who advanced to the 100 finals at SECs with a collegiate personal-best time of 10.39, will run on Georgia's 4x100 relay team.
In 2011, 40 members of UGA's teams traveled to Bloomington, Ind., for the East Prelims and 14 advanced to the NCAA Championships with three multi-event athletes having already automatically qualified for the finals.
"Last year, which was the third year of the current qualifying format, we had a great week of qualifying and had a lot of people make it through to the Championships," said Norton. "I like our chances of getting a lot of people through this year as well. It is more important to get our higher ranked people through because they have the best chance of scoring."
Storey was one of the near misses for the Bulldogs last year. While he clocked a career-best time of 20.60 to take fourth at this year's SECs in the 200, Storey finished 15th or just three spots out of advancing to the NCAA finals last season at the East Prelims with a time of 21.39.
Although Evans did not compete at the 2011 East Prelims, the 2012 indoor/outdoor 800 champion has a history at the meet. The Bermuda native recorded a school record time of 1:46.26 to win the meet in 2010 before taking third at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., in a photo-finish.
In the 400 hurdles, Adams grabbed the 11th spot at the Prelims last season to advance to his first NCAA Championships as an individual. Adams later earned Honorable Mention All-America honors after taking 19th in the 400 hurdle prelims at the NCAA finals.
Shot putter T.J. Davilmar, who is no longer with the Bulldogs, managed to snag the 12th and final spot at the 2011 Prelims. He took 21st at the NCAA Championships two weeks later.
The Lady Bulldogs tied for 40th at the 2011 NCAA meet with six points thanks to Lomnicka's third-place finish in the hammer throw, which is also where she finished at the East Prelims. On the men's side, Michael Ayers was sixth in the decathlon at the NCAA Championships to score three points for Georgia, which gave the Bulldogs a tie for 54th place.
Live results and recaps for each day of the NCAA East Prelims will be found at georgiadogs.com.