Fresh off the Georgia women‚Äôs third-place finish at the NCAA indoor track and field championships last weekend, the Bulldogs begin the outdoor season today in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Tempe, Ariz.
And sophomore Freya Jones, who won the NCAA crown in the javelin a year ago but doesn‚Äôt compete during the indoor season, is champing at the bit to defend her title.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been a long time,‚Äù said the British-born All-America selection, who probably won‚Äôt begin competition until the Spec Towns National Team Invitational in early April. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm working really hard at the moment, conditioning really hard, and I‚Äôm just starting to really step up my javelin and get ready for the outdoor season. I‚Äôm really excited to get out and do some competition and see what I can do this year.‚Äù
Jones, who won the javelin last June in Des Moines, Iowa, with a personal-best throw of 180 feet, 3 inches, admitted that it hasn‚Äôt been easy to watch her teammates compete while she‚Äôs on the sidelines.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard, but they give me a lot of team spirit,‚Äù she said. ‚ÄúI like to see what they do, and honestly, it gives me a bit of a boost to get out and get ready for the outdoor season. How the girls did this season indoors has inspired a lot of the people who can‚Äôt do indoors (events) to really get excited for the outdoors.‚Äù
Excitement seems to be the watchword around the Spec Towns track as most of the Bulldogs squad will head to the Alabama Relays (which began Thursday), with nine throwers traveling to the Castillo Invitational at Arizona State (which starts today), to kick off the outdoor season.
Georgia coach Wayne Norton, now in his 15th year at the helm of the Bulldogs‚Äô track and field program, said the women‚Äôs excellent performance at the NCAA indoors should provide both momentum and motivation for the upcoming outdoor campaign.
‚ÄúMainly what it does is get people excited,‚Äù Norton said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs really all about the energy and emotion when you‚Äôre talking about talent being equal and the resources and all those things, so it gets people excited about track. Hopefully, the athletes are getting excited.‚Äù
And with a pair of national championship performances last weekend in Albuquerque, it seems likely the Bulldogs will be more than a little amped up this weekend. The women were paced by true freshman Kendell Williams‚Äô record-setting score of 4,635 points in the pentathlon and redshirt freshman Leontia Kallenou‚Äôs victory in the high jump with a mark of 6-1 ¬Ω.
‚ÄúI think I‚Äôm on a roll, so I hope I can keep it going,‚Äù said Williams, whose brother Devon Williams is a multi-event competitor for the men‚Äôs team. ‚ÄúIn my opinion, outdoors is more fun, so I‚Äôm ready to go. Finishing third really motivated us to want to be back on the podium. I know it motivated the guys to get more of them to the big meet. It‚Äôs going to be fun.‚Äù
When asked if he was surprised by his true freshman‚Äôs pentathlon results, Norton said, ‚ÄúNot at all. If you look at what she did in high school, everybody knew that if she puts it together with good structure in her training, special things would happen. She set an American junior record with a 4,302 earlier in the season. That was pretty good, but it doesn‚Äôt even compare to the 4,635. … However, if you look at that performance, she was not at her best, not like she‚Äôll be in the long jump, hurdles and the shot. She‚Äôs got to build back up to the heptathlon. Javelin is not her strong suit, so it‚Äôs not like she‚Äôs going to be the world record holder in everything. She‚Äôs going to have to get her javelin level up to the level of her other events.‚Äù
On Wednesday, Williams was named the National Women‚Äôs Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Senior sprinter Jonathan Smith, who came in 20th in the 100 meters at last year‚Äôs outdoor NCAAs, agreed that the women‚Äôs superior finish at the NCAA indoors will provide plenty of incentives for the men‚Äôs squad this spring.
‚ÄúThat definitely motivates the guys,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúWe haven‚Äôt done that well in a while, and to see those girls get out there and take top three is pretty amazing. It really drives you while you‚Äôre at practice to strive for that greatness.‚Äù