The seventh-ranked Lady Dawgs and the Georgia men join 10 other nationally ranked squads from across the league at the meet, including the top-ranked Arkansas women and the No. 1-ranked LSU men.
Georgia sophomore Garrett Scantling, along with freshmen Maicel Uibo and Devon Williams start the competition with the first four events of the heptathlon beginning with the 60-meter dash on Friday at 2 p.m. ET. Senior Lucie Ondraschkova will get going in the pentathlon with the 60 hurdles at 2:30 p.m. and finish up her five events with the 800 that same day. Only multi-events will be run on Friday.
Open events at the meet begin with the men’s weight throw at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. The first open event on the track is the men’s 60 hurdle prelims on 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We actually had one of the best women’s indoor regular seasons we have ever had with some school records and athletes performing at a high level,” said Dawg head coach Wayne Norton, whose team has already competed in Fayetteville once this season and will return again for the NCAA Championships on March 8-9. “The men’s team has done well in that most of them are new to SEC competition and have had to get acquainted with the competition, and then try to develop as athletes. Both teams progressed well throughout the regular season. We have had some rare late season injuries that could affect us short-term, but I think we will be OK. Early injuries are usually easier to deal with than late injuries.”
In addition to the regular top competitors in the league, two other programs will be competing at their first SEC indoor meet this weekend. Texas A&M, who will be joining Missouri for the first time, is holding down the No. 3 spot on the women’s side and ninth in the men’s national poll.
“In my 20-plus years at Georgia, I have noticed that the SEC meets are usually more challenging than the NCAA meets because in most events, the talent and level of competition is sometimes at a higher level at the conference level compared to the NCAA level,” said Norton, who started as an assistant coach for the Dawgs in 1990. “But the real factor is the combination of the level of talent and the fierceness of the rivalries that result in a more intense meet at SECs compared to NCAAs. At a conference meet, each team is a rival that brings out more emotion in every other team. At the national championships, there are some teams that you rarely compete against so there is less quote, unquote, animosity.
“SEC track and field can be brutal, similar to the 2011 SEC baseball Eastern Division when Georgia had to deal with the nation’s number one, two and three ranked teams in our own division. It just does not get easy.”
The Georgia competitors who are traveling currently hold 22 spots in the SEC’s top eight in a variety of events. Freshman Chanice Porter is leading the league (third in the nation) in the long jump with a mark of 21 feet, ½ inch to headline the group.
Junior Hilenn James (women’s shot put), freshman Maicel Uibo (heptathlon) and sophomore Nick Vena (men’s shot put) all feature the second-best efforts in their respective events thus far.
Porter’s roommate, fellow freshman Shaunae Miller, is seated third in the 200 (23.26) and fourth in the 400 after setting a school record with a time of 52.96.
“We have some good young talent as do so many of the teams in this league,” said Norton. “The beat goes on and the battles continue.”
The Georgia men scored the most points in program history (85.5) to finish third at the 2012 SEC Indoor Championships. Both seniors Torrin Lawrence (400) and Aaron Evans (800) captured league titles as the 4×400 relay team also registered a runner-up finish. Eight scorers from last season are back at the 2013 meet.
The Lady Dawgs left Lexington, Kentucky, with one SEC individual crown and a fifth-place finish (52 points) in 2012. Senior Colleen Felix claimed her second consecutive conference championship in the triple jump. Saniel Atkinson-Grier, who will be competing in both the high and triple jumps in Fayetteville, was second in the high jump to add another eight points. Seven of Georgia’s scorers from the women’s side in 2012 will also be returning to battle for UGA this weekend.