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Gwinnett Grads: Nabors wins NAIA national title

Johnnie Nabors put a perfect ending to his indoor track career last weekend, making some Union College history in the process.

The Meadowcreek grad won the 60-meter dash at the NAIA National Indoor Track and Field Championships in Johnson City, Tenn., giving his Kentucky college its first individual track national champion.

"Last night, all I could do is think about this," Nabors said. "This is my third year here and the past two years, I've finished in third place. I couldn't leave Johnson City knowing I came in third place again. It was really emotional."

Nabors won the 60 in 6.80 seconds, a hundredth of a second better than runner-up Jamal Forbes of Dickinson State (N.D.).

TRACK AND FIELD

Penk sets career high

Georgia Tech sophomore Erica Penk, a Dacula grad, posted a career-best effort in the pole vault at last weekend's Virginia Tech Last Chance Meet.

Penk posted an NCAA Indoor Championships provisional qualifying mark with her vault of 13 feet, 21/4 inches, which topped her previous best by 23/4 inches.

BASKETBALL

Austin earns conference awards

Collins Hill grad Ashley Austin, a senior guard at Evansville (Ind.), received a trio of awards from the Missouri Valley Conference this week.

Austin was named second-team All-MVC, but also made the MVC All-Defensive Team and was named a first-team MVC Scholar-Athlete.

She led Evansville in scoring (13.0) and also had team-highs of 91 assists and 64 steals. Her scoring average of 14.4 points in conference play was fourth-best in the MVC.

Austin also maintains a 3.55 GPA in biochemistry and hopes to attend medical school after her May graduation.

Witherspoon racks up awards

Wesley Witherspoon, a Berkmar grad, received the Versatility Award at Memphis' season-ending basketball banquet, but got a bigger honor from Conference USA.

The league named the freshman its Sixth Man of the Year. He came off the bench in 25 games this season, averaging 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds. His defensive play has been important in recent weeks as head coach John Calipari has used the 6-foot-8 Witherspoon at the top of the team's zone defense.

Clarke, Okoli shine at conference tourney

South Gwinnett grad Emily Clarke and Brookwood grad Chika Okoli made the All-Southern Conference Tournament second team last weekend.

Clarke, a sophomore, helped Western Carolina to the SoCon tourney title, scoring 18 points in a 101-87, three-overtime win over College of Charleston in the finals. Wesleyan grad Sarah Moye had 18 points for Charleston in a losing effort.

Okoli, a senior, averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two tournament games for Samford. She made 14 of 22 field goals.

Honors keep rolling for Kulavic

Oglethorpe guard Katie Kulavic, a Norcross resident, was voted the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Georgia Player of the Year for all NCAA divisions this week.

The St. Pius grad also became the second player in Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference history to be a four-time, first-team all-conference selection. She led Oglethorope to its first SCAC title last week, earning all-tournament honors after scoring 24 in the finals.

BASEBALL

Heffley off to blazing start

After helping Brookwood to the Class AAAAA state title last spring, Ross Heffley has taken his hot hitting to the college level.

The Western Carolina freshman was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs this week in a win over East Tennessee State, boosting his team-best batting average to .489 and his team-high on-base percentage to .571.

He has a home run and 11 RBIs for the 10-2 Catamounts.

Burnette's heroics lift Jackets

Buford grad Chase Burnette blasted a pinch-hit, three-run home run last Sunday to lift Georgia Tech to a 10-7 win over Maryland. The homer over the center field wall scored Wesleyan grad Tony Plagman (who also homered in the win) and gave the Yellow Jackets a 3-0 start in ACC play.

SWIMMING

Droll, Sanders shine at Davidson

Peachtree Ridge grad Bryan Droll and Wesleyan grad Courtney Sanders had impressive showings for their Davidson College teams at the recent Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association Championships.

Droll, a walk-on swimmer who never swam a year-round club, placed second in the 50 freestyle (20.79 seconds) and the 100 freestyle (46.05). He swam a personal-best of 45.69 in the 100 free prelims.

The sophomore also swam a school-best 50 free split of 19.87 on Davidson's school and conference record 200 free relay. He then swam a 19.76 50 free split on a runner-up 200 medley relay before swimming on a school and conference record 400 free relay. His split in that 100 free was 44.98.

Sanders led the Davidson women to the team championship with a first, two second and one third-place swims. She anchored a comeback 400 free relay to first place and also was on school-record 200 free, 800 free and 200 medley relays.

The senior also placed third individually in the 100 butterfly, fifth in the 100 free and sixth in the 50 free.

WRESTLING

Coffey nearly an All-American

Collins Hill grad David Coffey was one win away from being an All-American at the NAIA National Wrestling Championships. His two losses were to the defending 285-pound national champion and to the second-ranked wrestler nationally.

Coffey also plays football for Campbellsville University.

SOCCER

UGA's Baker competing with England

Parkview grad Ashley Baker, a redshirt freshman at Georgia, played this week with the England Under-19 National Team. The squad participated in a 10-nation tournament in La Manga, Spain.

SOFTBALL

Roles powers GSU win

Georgia State sophomore Rebecca Roles had a big game to lead the Panthers to a 6-1 win over Winthrop last Sunday at the Buzz Classic. The Collins Hill grad had a team-high four RBIs, the bulk of those coming on a three-run home run.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.