Georgia Bulldogs Record Pair Of Top Five Finishes At SEC Championships


Photo Credit – Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Georgia track and field came away with a pair of top-five team finishes as the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships wrapped up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Sunday afternoon.

Highlighting their performance on the final day at the Randal Tyson Track Center was yet another school record from true freshman Shaunae Miller and individual runner-up finishes for junior Caleb Whitener (shot put) and sophomore Charles Grethen (800-meter run).

With the third-ranked Texas A&M men, the ninth-ranked Aggie women and Missouri teams competing at their first league meet, the Bulldog men took fourth with 56 points as Arkansas (152.50) captured the conference crown. Florida (117) and Texas A&M (88.50) finished second and third, respectively.

This marks Georgia’s fourth top-five finish in a row at the SEC Indoor Championships.

Arkansas (116.5) took the team title in the women’s showdown as the Lady Bulldogs (53.5) finished fifth. LSU (111.5), Texas A&M (88) and Florida (77.5) made up the second- through fourth-place finishers.

After scoring 54 points in 2011 and 52 in 2012, the Georgia women took fifth for the second consecutive year.

Junior Hilenn James (women’s shot put), freshman Chanice Porter (women’s long jump) and sophomore Garrett Scantling (heptathlon) secured their spot in Bulldog history by winning SEC titles on Saturday. UGA finished with four school records on the weekend.

“We’ve kind of been locked in around fifth the past couple of years and I guess that’s much better than being seventh or eighth for a couple years in a row,” said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton. “I thought we did a really good job this weekend. I think these finishes are so special because if you look who finished ahead of us, those are traditional super powerhouses who will be up there at the top nationally at the end of the year.

“And if you look below us, we beat some other super programs that have a strong tradition in track and field. To be where we are is a great place and I am excited about seeing what we can do at nationals. And then I look forward to see what happens when we add more firepower outdoors.”

The Bulldogs got a 16-point boost by finishing second, third and seventh in the men’s shot put. Whitener watched his second throw become the longest throw of his career to earn runner-up honors. The 2012 outdoor All-American, who opened with an effort of 61 feet, 11 ½ inches, moved into the No. 5 spot in school history with a mark of 62-9.25.

One spot behind Whitener was sophomore Nick Vena. Vena, who captured ACC shot put and discus titles while with Virginia last year, reached 62-5.75 on his third attempt to take third in the competition.

Georgia’s final scorer in the shot put was senior Peter Novotny. After opening with a foul, he started the finals with a fourth throw that measured 57-2.25 and that enabled him to take seventh place.

Shaunae Miller’s school record in the 400 set in the event’s prelims lasted a day as the native of the Bahamas topped it again on Sunday. Racing in the first of two heats, Miller sped to a 52.21 to win her heat and take third overall in the finals.

This marks the third time Miller has set a Lady Bulldog record in the 400 this season. Her time put her fourth on the NCAA performance list.

After coming into the meet with the 10th-best 800 time in the SEC this year and as the last qualifier for the finals, sophomore Charles Grethen had the best performance of his life in the finals. Grethen improved his No. 5 time in the Georgia record books to 1:49.13 as the Luxembourg native finished second.

On the women’s side, junior Megan Malasarte trimmed off three hundredths of a second from her personal best to take fourth in the 800. Malasarte ran a 2:06.39, which bettered her No. 3 spot on the Lady Bulldogs’ all-time top-10 list, to boost the Lady Bulldogs’ total by five points.

During a women’s high jump competition that featured four competitors over six feet, senior Saniel Atkinson-Grier tied for fifth with a clearance of 5-10.75. She soared over her first three heights on her opening attempt before having difficulties at 6-0.50.

Georgia cut two seconds off its season-best time in the 4×400 relay to grab sixth place. Sophomore Chris Foster, senior Daniel Grass, sophomore Corey Ashbourne and sophomore Drew Branch teamed up to finish in 3:11.04 in the final event in the men’s competition.

Sophomore Tynia Gaither had her second scoring performance of her career in the 200 at the SEC indoor meet. Gaither finished the finals with a season-best mark of 23.96 to take seventh place.

Senior Matt Cleaver closed out his collegiate career by clocking a personal-best mark in the 5000 to take seventh. After staying in the front half of the pack during the first heat of his event, Cleaver shot across the finish line in 14:14.72.

This is the third-fastest time in school history and the fastest for the Bulldogs since Ian Burrell set the school record in the same facility in 2007 (13:46.97).

Cleaver sped to the fastest finish of his career in the 3000 for sixth place on Saturday. His time of 8:07.78 bettered his No. 4 mark in the Bulldog record books.

Junior Stella Christoforou scored for the first time in an individual event at an SEC meet after taking seventh in the mile finals. She finished her laps in a career-best time of 4:44.46, which ranks fifth in school history.

Christoforou’s teammate, sophomore Carly Hamilton, owns the school record in both the mile and 3000 and appeared to have grabbed the top overall finish in the mile prelims on Saturday after winning her heat with the second-fastest time of her career.

But it was ruled shortly after the race that she broke out of her lane and into single file too early and she was disqualified. Because of Hamilton’s disqualification, Christoforou took over the 10th and final qualifying spot.

Senior Lucie Ondraschkova knocked out five events on Friday to finish second in the pentathlon with the nation’s second-best score. On Sunday, the Opava, Czech Republic, native battled in the triple jump for only the second time in her career and posted another personal best. She traveled 41-5.25 after a pair of fouls and then passed on her final three attempts to begin her recovery for the NCAA Championships.

Senior Leslie Boozer provided one point for the Georgia women after taking eighth in the 5000. Boozer finished the race in a personal-best time of 16:50.78 to score for her first time at an SEC indoor meet.

The Bulldog men’s distance medley relay did not score on Sunday, but they did establish a new No. 10 mark on the school’s all-time top-10 list. A trio of freshmen – Zane Coburn, Kisean Smith and Wade Voyles – worked with junior Eric Mills to take ninth with a time of 10:00.01.

In the men’s pole vault, sophomore Paul Malquist cleared a season-best height of 16-7.50 on his second try and finished 11th. Bulldog freshman and Athens native Jamario Calhoun also set a collegiate personal best in the triple jump of 47-1.50 to take 16th.

Follow Danny Bishop on Twitter @DBishop101