ATHENS, Ga. — The Bulldog track and field teams will kick off their 2022 campaigns with a multitude of opportunities in January and February as the indoor season cranks up.
Georgia is led by new head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert, who accepted her position in June after winning a pair of women’s team national championships and registering four top-five NCAA finishes on the men’s side over the last seven years at the University of Southern California.
“I am super excited to start the season as a Bulldog,” said Smith Gilbert, who was a two-time U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Women’s Coach of the Year at USC.
“We have several goals for the upcoming seasons. Our main focus is to compete with 100 percent effort and execution at all times. If we do that, we will most likely have a good chance at earning a trophy when the NCAA Championships arrive.”
The Bulldogs will start their season at the Clemson Invitational on Jan. 14-15. Georgia has made the short trip to Clemson, S.C., for the last five years, opening in the Rock Norman Track & Field Complex four of those seasons. This is one of two chances Georgia will have to compete at Clemson in 2022 and one of three regular-season weekends the Bulldogs are expected to have team members competing in January.
Following a one-day competition at the Carolina Challenge in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 22, Georgia will make the trip to another familiar spot in Fayetteville, Ark., for the Razorback Invitational. The Bulldogs have traveled to Arkansas for the last seven consecutive seasons and competed at a variety of Southeastern Conference and NCAA Championship meets in the facility.
February will mark a return to Clemson for the Tiger Paw Invitational on Feb. 11-12. Also on that weekend, a group is scheduled to battle at the Music City Challenge in Nashville, Tenn., as competition ramps up with the postseason nearing. The next weekend, Georgia will split squads for the JDL DMR Invitational (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and the USC Indoor Open (Columbia), marking the final regular-season tune-up for the Bulldogs.
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Texas A&M will play host to the SEC Indoor Championships on Feb. 25-26, marking the second time in the last three years that the league’s indoor meet will be in College Station, Texas. Another familiar spot to the Bulldogs during the indoor season is Birmingham, Ala., and this will be the spot for this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships (March 11-12).
The outdoor season begins immediately on the next weekend with the traditional start coming at the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta. Georgia will open another group of competitors up for the outdoor season at either the Raleigh Relays (March 24-26) or the Florida State Relays (March 24-25). This will be the fourth time in a row that UGA representatives have gone to Raleigh and the second straight year a Bulldog contingent will travel to Tallahassee, Fla., for the meet.
As the temperatures warm up, so too does the competition on the track for the Bulldogs. Georgia will compete at the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Fla., on March 31-April 2 before returning to play host to the annual Spec Towns Invitational in Athens on April 7-9. Forty current entries on Georgia’s all-time top-10 lists have come from this meet.
“I am hoping to be able to attract a huge crowd of supporters at our two home meets,” Smith Gilbert said. “After months of training and building, I will be particularly excited about competing on our home track for the first time.”
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A return trip to Gainesville arrives on April 15-16 with the Tom Jones Memorial. Simultaneously another crew will make the cross-country trip to Walnut, Calif., for the Mt. SAC Relays (April 14-16). Both of these meets are usual targets for the Bulldogs as they work to pick up as many NCAA Regional qualifiers as they can.
Georgia’s final regular-season action before the outdoor postseason starts is its last home meet of the year, the sixth-annual Torrin Lawrence Memorial (April 29-30). Named for the late great Bulldog NCAA sprints champion Torrin Lawrence, Georgia will use this meet as their final opportunity to sharpen up for the SEC Outdoor Championships. The conference meet will be in Oxford, Miss., for the first time since 2004 on May 12-14.
Those who qualify will advance to the first round of the NCAA Championships at the NCAA East Regional in Bloomington, Ind., on May 25-28. It has been 11 years since the East Regional has been at Indiana’s facility. This year’s NCAA West Regional will run at the same time on Arkansas’ campus.
The grand finale to the 2022 campaign will come at Oregon’s Hayward Field on June 8-11 with the NCAA Outdoor Championships. While the Georgia women finished third and the men took eighth at the meet in Eugene, Ore., in 2021, Smith Gilbert’s Lady Trojans captured the NCAA title and her men’s team was fifth last year.
“Hayward Field is historic in so many ways,” said Smith Gilbert. “We understand 2021 is not 2022 so I plan to go there with our teams and compete to the best of our ability and come home with some hardware.”
Since 2010, the NCAA meet has been held at this facility eight times. Other than Austin, Texas, being the site for the meet in 2023, Oregon is set to play host to the NCAA Championships through 2027.
Keeping Up With The Dogs: Updates from Georgia’s track and field and cross country teams can always be found on Twitter/Instagram (UGATrack).