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UGA tack star Lawrence becomes Bulldogs' first ever "National Athlete of the Year" winner (UPDATES: adds quotes, details)

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATHENS -- Georgia sophomore sprinter Torrin Lawrence was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Male Track Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.

Lawrence was named the USTFCCCA South Region Male Track Athlete of the Year on March 9 for the second consecutive season and was then picked to be the national recipient from the nine regional winners. He is the first member in the history of the Bulldog men's program to be named a national athlete of the year.

"I am not that surprised that he has been honored with this type of award because he is truly that type of talent," UGA coach Wayne Norton said. "His wins at the (Southeastern Conference) level and the NCAA level as well as the awards he had gotten fit what type of talent he is. I think it is great that he is keeping a level head and staying humble through all of his accolades. After talking with his mother (Elaine Davis) at the meet this weekend, I can tell that she has been and still is a very positive influence on his life. To be honest, I'm glad he's at Georgia because he is the best runner in the country."

In 2009, Lawrence shattered the school record in the 200-meter dash (20.77) in his career debut before winning Georgia's first SEC indoor 200 title. Although he brought All-America honors back to Athens in the event, Lawrence finished seventh in the 200 at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

"We knew what type of talent he was as a freshman last year, he just didn't validate it," Norton said. "But he fulfilled the prophecy this indoor season."

Lawrence, a 6-foot-1 native of Jacksonville, Fla., had one of the most prolific seasons in collegiate track and field history during his 2010 indoor campaign. He added a second SEC championship and a second All-America certificate to his resume while taking the world performance lists by storm in the 400.

Traveling to Fayetteville, Ark., for the third time of the season, Lawrence sped to his first national title after winning the 400 at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March 13. Lawrence won the prelims with a time of 46.05 before clocking the second-fastest time in an NCAA indoor final in history (45.23) to win Georgia's third national indoor championship and its first since 2001.

"Torrin's success this season is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication on his part," said Bulldog sprints coach Jon Stuart, who has had at least one SEC champion the last four years. "It's nice for all of his accomplishments to be rewarded and I believe it's a compliment to the university, our team and our coaching staff. This award also shows that the coaches who vote for this award are paying attention to his success and appreciating what he has been able to do this year."

Lawrence, who was the 2009 SEC Indoor Male Freshman Runner of the Year, traveled for the second time to Fayetteville for the SEC Championships and won only the second indoor 400 crown in school history for the Bulldogs. He registered a meet-record time of 45.10 to win, which is the second-fastest time in the world this year behind his own 45.03.

During his first trip of the year to Fayetteville, Lawrence clocked a world-leading 45.03 to win the Tyson Invitational (Feb. 12-13) and crush the previous the school record. His time is the third-fastest finish in collegiate indoor history and the seventh-fastest time in the history of the world. Lawrence's mark is also the fastest time run since Kerron Clement set a world record (44.57) in March 2005.

Lawrence also has a collegiate record in the 300 on his resume this season. He sped to a 32.32 to finish first at the Hokie Invite (Jan. 22-23) and top the 23-year-old record of 32.67 in the event set by Mississippi State's Lorenzo Daniel in 1987. Lawrence's time is the fifth-fastest finish in history.

He also won both of the 200 races he was in this season and had a season-best and NCAA automatic qualifying time of 20.80. Although he tied for the sixth-fastest 200 finish in the country during the regular season, Lawrence chose to focus on just the 400 at the national meet.

Lawrence has spread his name out across the Bulldog indoor record books. He is No. 1 in both the 200 (20.77) and the 400, is tied for third in the 60 (6.75) and was on the record-breaking 4x400 relay team (3:07.45) in 2009. Lawrence's name also is on two other 4x400 relay teams that have top-10 times.

Georgia will start its outdoor season with a dual meet versus Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, March 20. Live results and a recap from the meet will be found at georgiadogs.com.