Georgia’s track and field teams will compete for the first time in more than 10 months with the arrival of the Clemson Invitational in Clemson, S.C., on Friday.
This weekend during the two-day indoor meet, Georgia will open on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in the women’s long jump (sophomore Jasmine Moore, junior Titiana Marsh) and 60-meter hurdle qualifying round (junior Imani Carothers, sophomore Anna Hall). Moore is the defending Southeastern Conference triple jump champion, was the 2020 SEC Women’s Freshman Field Athlete of the Year and she, Marsh and Hall were all 2020 indoor All-Americans.
Redshirt sophomore Clay Pender and freshman KC Heron will start the men’s portion on Friday in the mile at 2:55 p.m.
The Bulldogs will then compete again at the Clemson Indoor Complex on Saturday with action starting in the women’s high jump (junior Sakari Famous, Hall, sophomore Shelby Tyler) at 11 a.m. Freshman Gavin Beverage, redshirt sophomore Kyle Garland, sophomore Karel Tilga and redshirt sophomore Ziggy Zoller (shot put) and junior Labo Oke (triple jump) will also begin day two for the men at 11 a.m. Garland captured the 2020 SEC heptathlon title, was the SEC Men’s Freshman Field Athlete of the Year and joined Tilga and Tyler as All-Americans last year.
Due to COVID-19, there will be no spectators allowed in the facility.
The Bulldogs have combined to post nine NCAA indoor top-10 team finishes since 2013, including six of those since Petros Kyprianou took over as head coach in 2016.
The Competition: The Bulldogs and the meet host Tigers will join Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State at the first meet of the 2021 season.
Shortened 2020: The Georgia women worked up to a No. 4 ranking on the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national poll while the Bulldog men stood at No. 5 headed into the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. However, after UGA arrived and joined the other qualifying teams for a practice day in the Albuquerque Convention Center, the meet was cancelled before it began and the Bulldogs flew home.
Although Nationals was cancelled, all of those team members who competed indoors used a year of eligibility. Since the outdoor season, along with the rest of the NCAA’s other spring sports, was also canceled, student-athletes did not exhaust a year of their outdoor eligibility in 2020.
Live Results: For live results to this weekend’s meet, please visit: http://gado.gs/5vn.
Kyprianou’s Comments: “We have finally arrived at the start of our indoor season!” said Kyprianou, who is beginning his sixth year as the Bulldogs’ head coach and 13th year overall with the program. “The team, staff and everyone around our program is ultra-excited and thankful that we get to return to what we love. It goes without saying that we are extremely thankful and proud of the efforts of Ron Courson and Anna Randa during this pandemic to basically put some order in navigating these crazy times, and give us a chance to be able to train and now to start competing.
“Our team is still a young team and with the abrupt halt right before NCAA Indoors last year, the student-athletes as well as the coaches all had to mature and go through some unusual feelings. Now these kids are very hungry, motivated and ready to go out and have fun competing! COVID-19 didn’t leave us without its consequences but everyone is trying to do their best with what they have.
“The talent on this team is sharp and they are a hard-working and honest bunch who deserves the best. We always try to make a run at every opportunity we receive in competing for championships but everyone understands that is a very unique season and adjustments must be made. Our indoor season serves as preparation of the outdoor season and this year being an Olympic year, the level of competition will be tough, ruthless but very, very exciting. Go Dawgs!”
Who’s Competing & When: Twenty Georgia women and 20 Bulldog men are scheduled to travel for UGA. In addition to those mentioned above who will compete first, other Georgia women making the trip are: seniors Jessica Drop, Samantha Drop, Destiny Jackson, Halle McClintock, Kayla Smith, Chelsea Zoller, juniors Anna Marian Block, Courtney Long, redshirt sophomore Grace Clements, sophomores Sara Bailey, Julia Fixsen, Gracie Jauch, Kaeli Thompson and redshirt freshman Mia Anderson.
In addition to the first men competing, seniors Jack Bradley, Delano Dunkley, Justes Nance, junior Elija Godwin, sophomores Matthew Boling, Curtis Borden, Sam Bowers, Caleb Cavanaugh, Chase Condra, Wesley John and freshmen Spencer Evans, John Franco and Zachary Roe are scheduled to compete for the Bulldogs.
Returning SEC Indoor Champions/All-Americans: The returning Bulldogs have combined to win four SEC indoor titles along with four First Team All-America certificates.
Senior Johannes Erm leads the way in this category with the 2018-19 SEC heptathlon titles indoors and fifth and fourth-place finishes at the 2019 and 2018 NCAA indoor meets, respectively. Erm led the country with 6,114 heptathlon points in 2020 and was ninth in the pole vault at SECs while training for Nationals.
In addition, all 14 of those who advanced to the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships were named All-Americans after the meet was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kayla Smith (pole vault), Jessica Drop (5000m), Titiana Marsh (triple jump), Julia Fixsen (pole vault), Anna Hall (pentathlon, high jump), Jasmine Moore (triple jump, long jump), Shelby Tyler (high jump), Johannes Erm (heptathlon), Elija Godwin (400m), Karel Tilga (heptathlon), Matthew Boling (200m) and Kyle Garland (heptathlon) are all on this year’s indoor squad.
The Bulldogs also added a thrower who transferred to UGA after a strong showing at his previous institution. Junior Alencar Pereira posted a personal best in the weight throw of 72 feet, 6 inches, which finished as the country’s 10th-best mark last year, to capture the 2020 Big 10 indoor title while competing for Nebraska.
Amber Tanner (800m), who had the nation’s third-fastest time last year before the season was canceled with a school record mark of 2:03.02, and Darius Carbin (high jump), who was ranked fifth in the country in 2020 with a mark of 7-4.50, exhausted their indoor eligibility and will return to action outdoors.
Bulldogs Making Their Debut: This will mark the first action in red and black on the indoor track for seven Georgia team members, including a pair of true freshmen. Beverage, Anderson and Thompson will be competing for the first time in their Georgia careers indoor after joining the program last year or transferring in to UGA. Evans, Franco, Heron and Roe will line up during their the first spring semester of their collegiate careers.
Where Does The Indoor Season Take The Dogs: This weekend’s meet marks the first of the year and the first of two in Clemson. Georgia will return to action there for the Tiger Paw Invitational on Feb. 12-13. In addition, the Bulldogs will compete in another regular season meet at the Carolina Challenge in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 23 and one at the Razorback Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., on Jan. 29-30.
The postseason begins with the SEC Indoor Championships in Fayetteville on Feb. 25-27. Georgia will return to Arkansas’ campus on March 12-13 for the NCAA Indoor Championships. One week later, the outdoor season cranks up in Atlanta.