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Georgia Track & Field Set To Open Season At Clemson Invitational
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ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's track and field teams open the 2008 indoor season
with hopes of continuing the women's dominant finishes at the Southeastern
Conference and NCAA meets and returning the men's team to their spot among
the nation's elite.
The Bulldog men come into 2008 ranked 16th in the U.S. Track & Field and
Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason poll, while the
Georgia women stand at the No. 23 spot.
"Our men have to stay focused on their goals and put the team first before
their personal needs. They realize this and are up to the challenge," said
head coach Wayne Norton.  "The women's team will have to develop some
performance leaders who will go out and lead by competing at a high level
and encouraging teammates to follow."
Both teams travel to the Clemson Invitational to compete on Friday and
Saturday and will return to Clemson's indoor facility twice more during the
indoor season.  With the SEC Championships arriving on Feb. 29 in
Fayetteville, Ark., Norton understands his teams need the next month to
develop into contenders for the conference crown.
"This is very early in the year for us and the weather has not cooperated
recently so we are not going into this first meet expecting great things,"
said Norton. "Rather we want to allow our young teams an opportunity to get
a taste of competition so that later when we are in better shape, we can be
During Norton's eighth year as head coach in 2007, both the men's and
women's teams experienced exceptional individual and team performances.  The
Lady Bulldogs, who have finished in the nation's top 12 during the indoor
and outdoor seasons nine times since 2000, finished second at the SEC indoor
meet and fourth at the NCAA Championships.  En route to their top-five
finish, the Georgia women saw senior Patricia Sylvester capture an NCAA
title in the high jump during the final collegiate meet of her career.
The Georgia men finished fifth at the SEC Indoor Championships thanks in
part to Ian Burrell's wins in both the 3000-meter run and the 5000 against a
loaded field. This marked the first time a Bulldog had ever swept the
distance races at the conference meet.  Although Georgia failed to score at
the national indoor meet, the Bulldogs roared back at the NCAA Outdoor
Championships to tie for 26th with six All-American certificates.
Georgia returns three 2007 indoor All-Americans to its teams.  On the men's
side, Burrell finished 10th in the 5000. Burrell also broke school records
in the 3000 (7:59.04) and the 5000 (13:46.97) at the 2007 Tyson Invitational
in Fayetteville, Ark.  Georgia will return to this year's Tyson Invitational
on Feb. 15-16 and the NCAA meet will also be hosted by Arkansas on March
For the women, Levern Spencer, who was runner-up to Sylvester in the high
jump, and Picchetti, who sped to a seventh-place finish in the mile, are
also both back to defend their national finishes.  Spencer tied Sylvester
for the No. 1 spot on Georgia's all-time indoor high jump list (6 feet, 2 1Z4
inches) at the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships.
In addition to the returning standouts, Georgia will be welcoming a host of
newcomers who will be expected to add firepower to both rosters on the
track.  The Lady Bulldogs will be featuring Odeika Bent, who has
personal-best times of 23.69 in the 200 and 54.25 in the 400, Georgina
Nembhard, who has clocked a 24.02 in the 200 and will also be hurdling for
Georgia, and Annimari Korte, a Finland native who is a four-time junior
national champion in the 100 hurdles.
"The women's team has a few more new people than the men's team, which is
good because we lost several people from last year's team," said Norton.
"Bent, Plank and Korte have the potential to be immediate scorers.  We
actually have more freshmen on the team than another other classification so
there are others who can and will help us this year."
Freshman Baron Brown, a Miller Grove High School product, has PRs of 47.47
in the 400 and 21.87 in the 200 and should be a boost to the men in sprints.
In addition, Ross Ridgewell, who sat out the 2007 indoor season, will run
the 800 for the Bulldogs after advancing to the NCAA Outdoor Championships
in the event last year.
"The men's team is just about the same team as last year's, but the guys are
more mature and more motivated," Norton said.  "Ridgewell and (Branislav)
Danis (NJCAA record holder in the hammer) are the two newcomers who should
give us a boost."
During the track and field offseason, seniors Sarah Madebach and Natalie
Picchetti made headlines for Georgia on the cross country trails.  Madebach,
who owns the school record in the 3000 steeplechase and is the reigning SEC
champion in the event, won Georgia's first SEC individual cross country
title and was later named the SEC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
Picchetti, who was the 2006 SEC mile champion and is just two seconds shy of
breaking the school's record time in the mile, saved her top performance for
the NCAA Cross Country Championships as she earned an All-American
certificate by finishing 27th (20:52.3).  When the final competitor had
crossed the finish line, the Lady Bulldogs finished 22nd at the NCAA meet.
"Looking at the last three years, the cross country success has always
carried right into the track season," said Norton.  "Look back at what Simon
Ngata, Ian Burrell, Lauren Burks, Jill Steffens, Kristin Heffelfinger,
Natalie Picchetti and Sarah Madebach did and it is obvious that the (track
and cross country seasons) are related."
Action beings for Georgia on Friday at 5 p.m. with the men's distance medley
relay and weight throw. A complete schedule of the Clemson Invitational can
be found at  Results from the meet will also be posted at following the completion of the events on Friday and
Saturday nights.

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