Georgia Track & Field Completes First Day Of NCAA Championships


Georgia’s track and field teams qualified two for finals, set a school record and started a promising heptathlon at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday.

The first day of action at the Randal Tyson Track Center included freshman Shaunae Miller clocking the eighth-fastest collegiate mark of all-time (51.14) to be the top finisher in the 400-meter dash prelims. Her school record time is the fourth fastest in the world this year.

Sophomore Carly Hamilton also qualified for the mile final during her event’s prelims.

Sophomore Garrett Scantling headlined the multi-events on Friday by tying the NCAA Championships record in the high jump and moving into third place through four events. Freshman Maicel Uibo is in sixth place with the final three events arriving on Saturday.

The heptathlon will resume with the 60 hurdles, pole vault and 1000 on Saturday beginning at noon ET. Senior Lucie Ondraschkova will start in the pentathlon at 12:45 p.m.

The first open event for Georgia on Saturday is junior Hilenn James competing in the shot put at 5 p.m.

“One of the things that stands out today during this first day of the NCAA Championships is just how outstanding the competition is here,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. “To have the top 16 competitors across the country in every event and to see the performances they are putting up really shows you how elite this meet is. I think it also shows you how great it is to qualify such a large group like we have.

“We let some opportunities slip away today but we also had some performances that should earn us some points (on Saturday). Our multi-event guys looked strong to start, Shaunae had a very encouraging prelim and Carly Hamilton’s run in the first round of the mile gives us some things to look forward to. We had a couple things that got us started today and now we have to concentrate on finishing.”

Miller took the track in the second heat of the 400 prelims along with this year’s SEC champion from Arkansas, Regina George. Miller, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, shot out in the opening lap and positioned herself in the lead as the race went single file. She completed the showdown in 51.14 ahead of George, who finished in 51.73. The second-fastest qualifier crossed in 51.55.

Miller, who races in the 400 finals at 7:40 p.m. on Saturday, now has the fastest time in the NCAA since 2011. She is the only freshman to advance to the final eight as she aims for the first All-America certificate for the Georgia women indoors since 1990.

Hamilton was the other Lady Bulldog who advanced to the final in their event during the first day. Hamilton sped to the second-fastest time of her career in the mile (4:37.33) to take second in her heat and second overall in the prelims. Her runner-up finish in the second heat automatically advanced her to the finals.

Hamilton will race in the mile final on Saturday at 7 p.m.

A pair of Bulldogs competed in the heptathlon with two career-best day one scores to put themselves in position to score. Scantling scored 3,323 points, which puts him only 28 points from second place and 19 points ahead of his day one best. Uibo tallied 3,244 points in the first day, which sticks him two points behind the fifth-place competitor and 68 points ahead of his top opening day.

“I thought our guys did very well in the hep today and I am pleased with their progress,” said Bulldog multi-events coach Petros Kyprianou. “For a true freshman and a true sophomore to have these performances against one of the deepest heptathlons in NCAA history says something.

“Maicel had three personal bests and then battled an injury in the high jump. But he is a tough kid and went through his pain like he had a heart of a lion. Our highlight had to be Garrett tying the NCAA record in the high jump, I thought that was an awesome effort. Both of the guys are ahead of their (personal bests) and I am looking forward to bigger and better things on the second day.”

Scantling made a three-spot jump from sixth to third place with his record-tying high jump in the fourth event. After being pushed to his third attempt at 6 feet, 7 ½ inches, Scantling cleared his next three heights on a total of four attempts for 906 points. He and Wisconsin’s Japheth Cato each went over the bar at 6-11 to match the record mark of Oregon’s Ashton Eaton at the 2010 NCAA meet.

During the shot put, Scantling sandwiched his top throw between his first and third throws to tie for fourth. He launched his second attempt 46-4 for another 736 points in the competition.

Scantling was sixth in the opening event (60) with the second-fastest time of his career at 7.07. His mark put him in sixth after one event with 858 points.

The Jacksonville, Fla., native recorded a second long jump of 23-1.25 to finish 13th with 823 points. This was also the second-best effort of his career indoors.

Uibo started fast with a trio of personal-best marks. The Polva, Estonia, native clocked a personal best of 7.19 in the 60 to start his competition. This gave Uibo 816 points and put him into 14th place.

In the long jump, Uibo worked up to a third attempt of 24-1.75, which was also his career best. He added 900 points to his total with his fourth-place finish.

Uibo improved on his second and third attempts to reach a personal-best distance of 44-9 in the shot put for sixth place. This effort boosted him to fifth place overall with another 706 points.

Bothered by a chronic ankle injury, Uibo reached 6-7.50 in the high jump to score 822 points and tie for fourth before pulling out of the event. In fact, Uibo had all first-attempt clearances in his three makes.

After snagging the ninth and last qualifying spot in the women’s long jump final, freshman Chanice Porter finished in the same position when all six attempts were complete. Porter registered an effort of 20-6.25 on her fourth try. This broke a streak of five consecutive wins for the 2013 SEC champion.

Junior Stella Christoforou, sophomore Tynia Gaither, junior Megan Malasarte and Hamilton finished their laps in the distance medley relay with the second-fastest time in school history. But the foursome’s 11:12.49 was two spots out of scoring for 10th place.

The relay team came into the meet with the 10th-fastest time in the nation after setting a school record of 11:03.27 at the Alex Wilson Invitational last weekend. The No. 3 time on the UGA all-time list (11:25.25), which was the school record two weeks ago, was recorded at the SEC Championships.

The Bulldogs also had a duo in the men’s shot put. Sophomore Nick Vena, who advanced to the NCAA Indoor Championships as a freshman at Virginia, watched his second throw travel 60-7.75 as he finished 10th overall.

Junior Caleb Whitener recorded only one fair throw and ended the competition in 14th place with a mark of 55-5. Both Whitener and Vena, who both failed to advance to the finals, had Second Team All-America performances for the second time in their career.

On the women’s side, senior Saniel Atkinson-Grier, who was a 2012 outdoor First Team All-American and has earned two other Second Team All-America certificates in her career, took 12th in the high jump with a clearance for 5-10. After clearing her first three heights on her first try at the SEC Championships two weeks ago, Atkinson-Grier also glided past her first two heights on Friday on opening attempts.

This is expected to earn Atkinson-Grier, who is an Upper Marlboro, Md., native, her third Second Team All-America honor.