Madison is athlete of year

University of Tennessee track & field national champion, All-American, school record-holder and U.S. leader Tianna Madison has been named the 2005 Alpha Omicron Pi Lady Vol Athlete of the Year, Women's Athletics Director Joan Cronan announced Thursday.

Madison's exemplary efforts were instrumental in elevating the Lady Volunteers to the program's first NCAA Indoor Championship and a team finish of fourth at the recent NCAA Outdoor meet, marking the first time the UT women had posted dual top-five finishes in a season since 1987. The Elyria, Ohio, product was selected from a field of nominees from each of the 10 women's athletics teams at UT. The other candidates included Shyra Ely (basketball), Felicia Guliford (cross country), Violeta Retamoza (golf), the Varsity 8+ (rowing), Keeley Dowling (soccer), Monica Abbott (softball), Julia Stowers (swimming and diving), Sabita Maharaj (tennis) and Julie Knytych (volleyball).

"Tianna won every championship possible this year, from SEC Indoors and Outdoors to both NCAA meets and the regional meet, and she had the leading long jump in the world for quite some time," Head Lady Vol Track & Field Coach J.J. Clark said. "She is very deserving of this honor and represents the very high standards of our program and the UT Women's Athletics Department, both for her pursuit of excellence in competition and in the classroom.

"She has been very valuable to our team, because she is so dependable, and we can rely on her to produce big points when it matters. As a person, she is a very coachable, honest and caring individual who always strives to get the best out of herself."

In addition to her record-setting year in the long jump pit, Madison was selected as one of four finalists for the Honda Sports Award for Women's Track & Field and was Tennessee's nominee for Southeastern Conference Female Athlete of the Year. The epitome of a true student-athlete, she has also been honored for her work in the classroom. Madison, who maintains a 3.39 GPA in social work, was a second-team selection on the ESPN "The Magazine" Academic All-District IV University Division Women's Cross Country/Track & Field Team and was a member of both the SEC and Thornton Center Academic Honor Rolls.

"It's a great honor to be chosen for this award," said Madison, who follows in the footsteps of former Lady Vol teammate and 2004 winner Dee Dee Trotter. "I know that there were several other outstanding candidates for this award, like Monica Abbott, who is such a great pitcher and whose team had a tremendous season. It's really a tremendous honor for me to be chosen."

Madison, whose national title in the long jump and third-place finish in the 60-meter dash helped key UT's first-ever NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship, was named the Sports Illustrated On Campus Women's Track & Field "Player of the Year" in March. She set a school record and became the first NCAA Indoor long jump champion in a storied Lady Vol track & field history, leaping to 22 feet, three inches/6.78m. Additionally, her jump tied for the fourth-longest in U.S. meet history and bested Dedra Davis' 1994 UT record of 22-0.25.

She won four of five indoor competitions, overall, in 2005. The only meet where she did not emerge victorious was the season-opening Virginia Tech Invitational, where Maryland's Kierra Foster claimed top honors despite Madison charting a career best in the prelims. Her UT coaches opted for her to focus on the sprints later in the day rather than take three more attempts.

Outdoors, as it became her custom all season, long jumper Madison delivered a first-round knockout at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The would-be boxer unleashed a first-round punch of 21 feet, 10 1/4 inches in the finals to finish off her opponents and once again walk away with the title of national champ. Madison, who also won the NCAA Indoor crown back in March and needed only one jump of 22 feet, 1/4 inch to make the NCAA Outdoor final, completed an undefeated outdoor campaign with six wins and reigned as the victor for the 10th time in 11 competitions in 2005.

The Elyria High School graduate, who attributes her focus, footwork and aggressive approach to long jumping due to time spent taking boxing lessons, also swept the Southeastern Conference Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season and triumphed at the NCAA Mideast Regional despite suffering from strep throat.

The NCAA leader the entire outdoor season, the sophomore continues to rank second in the world to Russia's Irina Simagina, as Madison's best wind-legal reading is 22-4.50/6.82m (April 9, Gatorade Classic, Knoxville, Tenn.), while Simagina's is 23-1.25/7.04m (May 26). On April 14, Madison was named the USATF National Athlete of the Week, the SEC Field Athlete of the Week and the Lady Vol Athlete of the Week. That recognition came for her then world-best long jump effort at the Gatorade Classic. That mark still stands as the best in UT history.

At the time of the SEC Championships, Madison still owned the world-leading wind-legal mark of 22-4.50. On May 14, she stretched the tape four more inches, flying to 22-8 1/2 to claim victory at the SEC Outdoor Championships in Nashville. Unfortunately, the wind gauge read 2.2 meters per second during that effort, a mark that is just above the allowable 2.0 threshold. Though Madison's slightly wind-aided jump at the SEC Championships was not eligible to be a school, meet or track record, her jump of 22-8 1/2 still ranks as the best mark ever in 25 years of Trackwire's 25 Women's Outdoor Poll.

Madison will now turn her focus to the USATF Outdoor Championships in Carson, Calif. next week. After winning the 2004 USATF Junior Championships long jump title and taking eighth at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials as a college freshman, Madison will attempt to claim her first-ever USATF Senior crown in 2005. A top-three finish at the meet would also earn her a spot on the U.S. team that travels to the IAAF World Championships, which is the top international competition on the planet during a non-Olympic year.

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