Trotter is Athlete of Year

Track & field national champion, All-American and school record-holder Dee Dee Trotter has been named the 2004 AOPi/Lady Vol Athlete of the Year.

Trotter was selected from a field of nominees from each of the 10 women‚s athletics teams at UT. The other candidates included the 2003-04 team (basketball), Brooke Novak (cross country), Violeta Retamoza (golf), Chelsea Pemberton (rowing), Keeley Dowling (soccer), Monica Abbott (softball), Jacque Fessel (basketball), Sabita Maharaj (tennis) and Kristen Andre (volleyball).

In 2004, Trotter raced to a pair of national championships, collected five All-America certificates and laid claim to a national collegiate record in the sprint medley relay. She also charted UT records indoors in the 200m, 400m, 4x400m relay and distance medley relay, and outdoors in the 400m, 4x400m relay and sprint medley relay.

''With so many of our teams having banner seasons and our department winning the SEC Women‚s All-Sports Trophy for the first time, we certainly had several outstanding candidates from which to choose,'' Lady Vol athletics director Joan Cronan said. ''They really made it a difficult decision, but clearly Dee Dee was very deserving of this award. Individually, she won two national championships this season, set numerous records, and she has played a major role in helping the track & field team return to national prominence.''

''I'm surprised and honored to receive this award,'' Trotter said. ''I have worked really hard, and I owe Coach Caryl (Smith, sprints coach) a lot for how she has trained me. We have a great relationship, on and off the track - she's such an awesome coach. It's been a great year for our team, and our expectation is that things are only going to get better.''

A product of Cedar Grove High School in Decatur, Ga., Trotter's exemplary efforts were instrumental in elevating the Big Orange to team finishes of fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships and seventh at the NCAA Outdoor meet, marking the first time the UT women had posted dual top-10 finishes in a season since 1991. The indoor national result was the highest placing since the 1987 squad garnered a runner-up outcome.

Additionally, the Lady Vols ascended from ninth to second at the SEC Indoor Championships in one season, remarkably finishing only six points out of the top spot. As usual, Trotter was a big reason why, kicking in points in the 200 and 400 meters and the 4x400m relay with record-setting times in the latter two events.

At the NCAA Outdoor Championships in June, Trotter rocketed to the sixth-best 400-meter time ever recorded by a collegiate woman to seize UT‚s first running event national title since 1987 and become the first 400m NCAA champ in Lady Vol history. Making headlines on the national scene, Trotter's school- and stadium-record time of 50.32 unseated defending national champion Sanya Richards on her home track and enabled Trotter to take over the national lead in that event heading into the U.S. Olympic Trials. It also gave the Tennessean a shot of redemption after she finished a close second to Richards at NCAA Outdoors in 2003.

In addition to her record-setting triumph in the 400 meters at 2004 NCAAs, Trotter repeated as the NCAA Mideast Region champion with a meet-record run of 51.43, lifting UT to a runner-up team finish, and was the SEC Outdoor runner-up in that event, as well, in 50.69. She will attend the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento in July with the goal of making the American team that will travel to Greece for the Athens Games.

A member of U.S. gold-medal-winning 4x400m relays at the World Championships and Pan Am Games last summer, Trotter's impact on Tennessee's relays was dramatic this season. Indoors, Trotter‚s decisive 400-meter leg enabled the Big Orange distance medley relay to not only score for the initial time in school history but to walk away with the program‚s first-ever national championship in that event. That undefeated unit also posted a time of 11:03.42 at the Penn State National Open in late January that stands as the best in the nation in 2004 and the finest in UT annals.

In front of nearly 40,000 fans, Trotter was also phenomenal on her 400-meter leg of the sprint medley relay at the historic Penn Relays, aiding a UT effort of 3:41.78 that shattered a 16-year-old national collegiate record and brought down track, stadium and school records to boot. Her turn with the baton in the distance medley relay at Penn also resulted in victory and a national-leading time, and was part of a program-record haul of three relay championships at the meet for the Tennessee women.

''Dee Dee is one of the best 400-meter runners I have ever seen come through this country,'' Lady Vol Head Coach J.J. Clark said. ''She could become the USA's best. That's a strong statement for me to make, because I coach an athlete (wife Jearl Miles-Clark) who is a two-time world champion in that event.''

Trotter, also figured heavily in other relay outcomes, including the 4x400m tandem, which posted a UT record of 3:31.49 to place fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships and ran 3:28.49 at the national outdoor meet to take third and topple a 22-year-old school mark. That combination also reported in fourth at the SEC Indoor Championships competition.

Among the school marks Trotter set indoors in 2004 were 23.19 in the 200 meters and 51.29 in the 400 meters as well as relay records of 3:31.49 on the 4x4 and 11:03.42 on the distance medley. Outdoors, she ran 50.32 in the 400 meters and assisted the 4x4 to 3:28.49 and the sprint medley to 3:41.78. Additionally, Trotter ranks seventh in the 60m (7.49) indoors and eighth in the 200 meters outdoors (23.27).

Now an All-American eight times in her collegiate career, Trotter collected five of those accolades in 2004. Her recognition during the current campaign came via NCAA victories in the distance medley relay indoors and the 400 meters outdoors, a third-place finish with the 4x400m relay outdoors and fourth-place outcomes in the 400 meters and with the 4x400m relay indoors.

''I'm sure the voting was close, but Dee Dee has worked very hard and deserves all the accolades she's receiving,'' Clark said. ''She's been blessed with talent and a competitive attitude that allows her to be the best. Coach Smith has worked with her race distribution, strategies and training, and it has all come together at the right time.''

Later this summer, Trotter will attempt to become the first active Lady Vol trackster to make an Olympic Team since 100-meter hurdler LaVonna Martin capped off her senior season at Tennessee with an appearance in Seoul, South Korea, for the 1988 Olympiad.

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