Lady's Track and Field wins SEC Title

GAINESVILLE, FL - Georgia's track and field teams made history on Sunday by winning the 2006 women's team title during the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

Junior Jennifer Dahlgren, freshman Levern Spencer and sophomore Natalie Picchetti all recorded victories on Sunday and helped clinch the team title on the third day of competition. Following Georgia's first SEC indoor team championship in school history and the Bulldogs' first team title since winning the outdoor crown in 1995, Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton was fired up about his Bulldogs' performances.

"Anytime a team wins a championship, we as coaches are ecstatic," said Norton, whose teams had nine third-place or better finishes on Sunday. "We've been working for a few years to get here and we kept telling people if certain things happen and we stay healthy, we could win. But you can't keep telling people that – you have to actually do it eventually. There were to many highlights to name them all here, but I want to especially commend the four champions we had."

Norton added that his team is the healthiest it has been since the 2004 outdoor season and should have a strong shot at being one of the top teams again during the coming outdoor campaign.

"This was a good, good effort and really satisfying to score in all event areas," Norton said. "In the past, it has not mattered what we do during indoors, we always do better outdoors so we have the potential to win it all again and do something special this spring."

Other than Georgia, the final women's standings are as follows: Auburn (96), South Carolina (78.50), Tennessee (78.50), Arkansas (73), Alabama (70.50), LSU (62.50), Florida (45.50), Kentucky (26), Ole Miss (16), Mississippi State (13) and Vanderbilt (2).

Junior Jennifer Dahlgren, a native of Spring, Tx., had a throw of 73-3.25 on her fourth attempt to win the first SEC title of her career. Dahlgren finished second in the event at the 2005 indoor conference meet and took third at the NCAA Championships. Georgia's junior also competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, in the hammer throw.

Dahlgren, who has the second-longest collegiate throw in the nation this season and holds the facility record at Florida after her performance at the Pepsi Invitational this season (Feb. 5), distanced herself from the competition (Rachel Longfors, Florida – 67-1.50) by almost six feet in the finals and was pleased to notch her first conference championship.

"I am really excited to win an SEC title at the same meet as my best friend Kierney Jackson (in the pole vault)," said Dahlgren, who already has an NCAA automatic qualifying mark. "I pretty much improved all four times I threw which was a solid series for me. This was a great meet with great competition and now I'm ready for nationals."

Freshman Levern Spencer, who is from Castries, St. Lucia, broke the school record and won the high jump with a career-best mark of 6 feet, 2 inches. Not only is that her best NCAA automatic qualifying mark, but it also topped the SEC Indoor Championships record of 6 by LSU's Gail Kapernick in 1993 and made Spencer the first freshman competitor to ever win an SEC indoor title for Georgia.

"I came very prepared to this meet and one of my goals was to better my height for the year and that ended up coming with me breaking the conference meet record," said Spencer, who transferred from Albany State after the fall semester. "I am excited and happy about this championship. My goal now for the NCAA Championships is to (have a personal record)."

In the women's mile finals, sophomore Natalie Picchetti broke away from the pack in the last turn and clocked in the fourth-fastest time in school history (4:49.17) to win the event. Picchetti's title is the first SEC indoor championship in a distance event for Georgia since 1995.

"A letter my friend Melinda Wong gave to me before this meet said run the last part with your heart and when I got to the last one, I gave everything I had," Picchetti said. "I saw the opportunity in the race and I took it."

Senior Jill Steffens, who came away with a second-place finish in the 3,000 on Saturday, took third in the 5,000 (16:43.37) and earned six more points for her squad on Sunday. In addition, senior Lauren Burks finished in fourth place for five points (16:51.97) and junior Kristin Heffelfinger grabbed a seventh-place finish, which earned the Bulldogs two points, after completing the race in 17:00.95.

Senior Patricia Sylvester, who brought a fourth-place finish home to Athens in 2005, recorded a triple jump of 42-11 to snag second in the event and earn eight points. Following closely behind Sylvester was teammate senior Shenae Dawkins, who took third with a mark of 42-4.75. In addition, Sylvester tied for fifth place in the high jump by clearing 5-7 and adding more points for the women.

To help lock down Georgia's win, the women's distance medley (Kelly Cordell, Felicia Hamilton, Sarah Madebach and Picchetti) team clocked a 11:39.15 to take third place and move to the No. 2 spot in the school record books in the second-to-last women's event of the meet.

For the men, sophomore Adam Sarafian led the way with a second-place finish in the pole vault after clearing 17. His finish helped record eight points to conclude the Bulldogs' scoring. In addition, junior David Dickens had a fifth-place finish in the 200 as Georgia finished in sixth place overall with 48.50 points. Arkansas completed the 2006 indoor meet by winning with 141 points as Tennessee took second (106) and Florida finished third (100).

"I think we came on strong during the last day of competition and I am pleased with how this meet concluded for the guys," Norton said.

In the 5,000, junior Ian Burrell battled to finish fifth with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 14:10.59.

Senior Chad McClendon repeated his results from the 2005 indoor meet by taking third place in the shot put. Thanks to his throw of 59-8.25, McClendon tallied six points for the Bulldogs in one of the final events of the meet.

In the men's high jump finals, freshman Kevin Dickson recorded four points for the Bulldogs by finishing fifth in the high jump (6-8). Freshman Josh Bagley and junior Greg Mays, who took sixth and seventh respectively, also were scorers for Georgia in the event.

Freshman Jarrell Stewart pitched in with three points for the men after finishing in sixth place in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.35. Also, junior Ian Burrell battled for a fifth-place finish in the men's 5,000 (4:10.59) to add four points to Georgia's total and sophomore Ryley Miller contributed one point by finishing 10th in the mile (4:08.58).

Finishing up the men's scoring was the distance medley team, who took sixth with a time of 10:02.27 to earn three points.

On Saturday, senior Kierney Jackson jumpstarted the Bulldogs' string of SEC titles by winning the pole vault title. Jackson's jump of 13-0.75 gave the Columbia, Md., native her second SEC title of her career after she won the 2005 outdoor championship.

At the SEC Indoor Championships, first-place finishes in the finals get 10 points, second get eight points, third get six points, fourth get five points and fourth- through eighth-place finishes earn four points down to one point.

The Bulldogs will split up on March 4 as several Georgia competitors try to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships at different sites around the country. On March 10-11, the Bulldogs will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the national meet to wrap up the indoor season.

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