Georgia Freshman Shaunae Miller Captures NCAA 400m Title On Track


Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia true freshman Shaunae Miller captured the 400-meter dash title to highlight the second day of the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday.

Thanks in part to the Lady Bulldogs’ first NCAA indoor title since 2007 and the first on the track since 1999, the Georgia women finished 10th with 22 points. This marks their best finish at the indoor meet since taking fourth in 2007 with 28 points.

Oregon (56) was crowned the 2013 team champions on the women’s side while Kansas (44), LSU (43), Arkansas (42.50) and UFC (30) made up the top five finishers.

For the men, the Bulldogs scored 11 points to tie two other teams for 18th place. This was their top finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships since taking 18th in 2001 with 12 points.

Arkansas (74) won the men’s team championship while Florida (59), Wisconsin (33), Texas A&M (30) and Texas Tech (28) composed the next four finishers.

There have been only two other times in history when both the Georgia men and women have finished with top-20 finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships (2001, 1995).

Georgia combined to have six scorers on Saturday. Completing the day with Miller’s national championship, sophomore Garrett Scantling and freshman Maicel Uibo went 3-4, respectively, in the heptathlon and senior Lucie Ondraschkova posted a personal-best score to take fourth in the pentathlon to demonstrate UGA’s strength in the multi-events.

Sophomore Carly Hamilton also finished fourth in the mile and junior Hilenn James had the top shot put performance of her career with a school record to take seventh on the meet’s second and final day.

“This is one of our better combined finishes in history and I think everyone can be happy about that,” said Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton. “The fact that we climbed into the top 10 and then added another top 20 finish on top of that is a sign that we are recruiting and signing the right people. While we’re happy with this finish, there is still a lot more room for improvement.

“We got big-time contributions from our newcomers, freshmen, sophomores and had some of our top people either not here at the meet or unable to compete at the level they are able. This meet bodes well for our future and I can tell you this, I am looking forward to this outdoor seasons. I have a feeling that great things are going to happen.”

Miller, who set the school record five different times this season, clocked the fifth-fastest collegiate 400 time in history at 50.88 to win the national crown. A native of Nassau, Bahamas, the 6-foot-1 sprinter sped to her record-setting time in the first of two heats in the 400 final. The closest finisher to Miller, Arkansas senior Regina George, finished in the same heat with a mark of 51.05.

On Friday, Miller’s winning mark of 51.14 in the prelims was the eighth-fastest time in NCAA history.

This marks the first NCAA indoor championship for the Lady Bulldogs since Patty Sylvester’s high jump win in 2007. It is the first NCAA indoor title on the track since fellow Bahamian Debbie Ferguson finished first in the 60 during the 1999 NCAA Championships.

It is the 12th NCAA indoor title for the Georgia women in history and the 23rd overall counting the 11 national outdoor championships.

“We have been talking about Shaunae since we first started to recruit her and now the track and field world, and the world in general, is aware of her talent,” said Norton. “She still has a long way to go before she reaches her potential, which is exciting to think about. I am proud of the way she took control tonight and brought an NCAA title back to Georgia.”

The Georgia men scored all 11 of their points in the heptathlon thanks to a pair of underclassmen. Scantling bested his own school record with 6,017 points for fourth place after posting personal bests in his last four events.

Uibo moved into the No. 2 spot in the school record books after piling up 5,975 points in his seven events. The Polva, Estonia, native managed six career-best efforts, including a first-place finish to close the competition in the 1000.

The heptathlon competition marked the first time in NCAA history that there have been three 6,000-point scorers in the same year. Before Saturday, only 13 collegians had ever scored 6,000 or more points in a heptathlon and three did it in this year’s competition.

“This was not only an impressive performance by Maicel and Garrett, but they had to dig down and fight during this competition to finish where they did,” Norton said. “Even when they were in pain and were getting tired these guys took care of business. They are another example of underclassmen who are accomplishing major things early on. Now they need to continue with their development.”

Scantling clinched his fourth-place finish with his fourth consecutive personal best. The Jacksonville, Fla., native ran in the second of two heats in the 1000 and crossed with the fastest finish of his career (2:47.07). His 796 points for ninth place put him 42 points ahead of his teammate as the competition came to a close.

Thanks to a mark of 6 feet, 11 inches in the high jump that tied the NCAA Championships meet record to conclude Friday, Scantling recorded his second consecutive personal best when the 60 hurdles arrived. He trimmed .05 seconds off his career best set at the SEC Championships to clock an 8.10 for second place and 957 points.

Scantling and Uibo went head-to-head with the rest of the field in the pole vault and both came away with career-best performances. Scantling, who had reached 16-0.75 in the pole vault twice in 2013, flew over the bar at 16-8.75 on his third attempt to score 941 points. Uibo started with four first-attempt clearances before also reaching 16-8.75 on his final try to match his teammate’s place and points.

Uibo picked up his fourth personal best of the competition after tying for ninth in the 60 hurdles. He shot across the finish line in 8.28 to pick up 913 points as his finish boosted him into fifth place.

In the 1000, Uibo left the field behind to clock a 2:39.42 for a win and 877 points. This shaved four seconds off of his time set at the Razorback Invitational in this same facility during late January.

Also in the multi-events, Ondraschkova left the Randal Tyson Track Center with four of the best performances of her life in the pentathlon. She finished fourth overall as she improved UGA’s second-best score of all-time with 4,228 points to give the Lady Bulldogs their first five points.

“Lucie has just consistently battled over her four years with us,” said Norton. “She could have gotten disappointed at times since some of her improvements have come slowly, but she has always stayed strong and gotten better and better and better. Even today she did not rattle off huge (personal bests), but instead recorded steady improvements that helped her score in the pentathlon go up nearly 300 points this year.”

Ondraschkova bolted out of the blocks in the 60 hurdles and finished with the fastest time of her career (8.78). This mark gave her a 12th-place finish and 956 points as Ondraschkova managed to record her third straight personal best in the event.

In the 2012 season opener, Ondraschkova suffered a season-ending elbow injury after a collision in the 60 hurdles.

The Czech Republic native equaled her personal best in the high jump of 5-8.75 to join a five-way tie for third place (916 points). Ondraschkova also tied for third at the SEC Championships in the event when she first hit that same height.

In the shot put, Ondraschkova opened up with the best throw of her indoor career. She scored 631 points thanks to a mark of 37-10.75 while also having an effort of 36-11.75 on her second try, which would have improved her personal best as well.

Despite losing a protest on one of her longer attempts, Ondraschkova managed a fourth-place finish in the long jump. She started by traveling 19-7 (840 points), which is the second-best showing as a Lady Bulldogs, before fouling on her final two attempts.

Ondraschkova wrapped up her five events by tallying her fourth personal-best mark. She jumped in with the lead group in the 800 and held onto through all of her laps to take sixth overall (fourth in her heat) with a time of 2:15.58 for 885 points.

Hamilton was Georgia’s third fourth-place finisher of the day and the Lady Bulldogs’ second of the meet. The Springboro, Ohio, native returned after running on UGA’s distance medley relay team to cross the finish line in 4:38.44 in the women’s mile. Hamilton started with the front four and never relinquished her spot as the race came to its finale.

It marks the Lady Bulldogs’ first All-America performance in the mile since Kristie Krueger accomplished the feat in 2010.

“This has been an outstanding year and was an outstanding meet for Carly,” said Norton. “The improvements she made between her first and second years have been tremendous. I am pleased with the steadiness she showed this whole weekend in the mile and in the relay, and those performances really mimic what sort of year she has had.”

Starting with a 55-foot toss, James had her second attempt in the shot put travel 55-10.50 for seventh place. This took over her previous No. 1 mark in the UGA record books of 55-1.50, which was set in the same facility in late January. James arrived in Fayetteville with the nation’s 15th-longest shot put throw this season but managed to add two points to the Lady Bulldogs’ total.

“Hilenn came in here and put up the best number she has in her career and that’s what we ask for when someone advances to NCAAs,” said Norton. “She has now become a scorer at the national level in the shot put so we look forward to trying for points in both the shot and discus once the outdoor season arrives.”

Georgia’s sole national leader coming into the NCAA Championships was sophomore Morgann Leleux in the women’s pole vault. But the New Iberia, La., native suffered a detached retina in late January and had to have a procedure to repair it done that sidelined the 2012 NCAA indoor and outdoor runner-up for six weeks. This meet marked her first action back.

Leleux passed on her first three heights on Saturday before fouling out at 13-11.25. The 2012 SEC outdoor champion had cleared 14-9 in the same facility before her injury.