June 12, 2004
University of Tennessee junior Dee Dee Trotter pulled off a stunning victory in the 400-meter dash at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Saturday night at Mike A. Myers Stadium, shocking 14,000 onlookers with a ferocious finish that University of Texas phenom and U.S. leader Sanya Richards was unable to match, even on her own track. That scintillating performance, coupled with a second-place finish in the 800 meters from senior Kameisha Bennett and a school-record, third-place effort by the 4x400m relay, helped the Lady Volunteers tally all of their 24 points on the final day to forge a tie for seventh in the team standings.
UCLA rolled up 69 points to grab the title, followed by LSU with 68, Nebraska with 58, host Texas with 42 and Florida with 29. Stanford tallied 27 points for sixth, while UT tied with SEC foes Georgia and South Carolina for seventh. The finish is the best outdoor effort by Tennessee since the 1994 squad took fifth in Boise, Idaho. Combined with a fourth-place result at the 2004 NCAA Indoor meet, UT posted the first top-10 indoor/outdoor result since the 1991 edition was sixth and fifth, respectively.
"We had a big final day, similar to the NCAA Indoor meet," Clark said. "Two top-ten team finishes this season proves we're moving in the right direction.
I'm very proud of our efforts after having a sloppy first day on Thursday."
Trotter, from Decatur, Ga., came roaring down the home stretch like the wild Texas wind in the 400m to overtake the defending national champion and lay claim to her first
NCAA individual championship in a facility- and school-record time of 50.32. UCLA's Monique Henderson and Richards, who were touted as the pre-race favorites, followed
the Big Orange standout across the line in second and third, respectively, in 50.62 and 50.68.
As always, Richards started strong. The sophomore led through 200 meters in 23.4 seconds and was the pace-setter at the 300-meter mark in 36.2 before Trotter uncorked her remarkable finish. Over the course of that decisive, final 100 meters, the Tennessean blazed down the straightaway, accelerating past Richards with 30 meters to go and easing by Henderson just 10 meters shy of the tape. In sensational fashion, Trotter had come from fourth place to the front of the pack and pulled off one of the meet's biggest upsets to earn a spot at the top step of the victory stand.
"I came to Austin to win a national championship, and that's the attitude I got off the airplane with," Trotter said. "My goal was to win this race and to hopefully run 49 seconds in doing so. Almost! Almost! There was a pretty strong head wind the first 200 meters or else I think I would have run 49 today."
In the process, the Lady Vol speedster toppled her own school record of 50.66, set in the NCAA final last season in a runner-up finish to Richards. She also bested the Myers Stadium standard of 50.76, which had been the property of Longhorn Suziann Reed since 1999. In producing the sixth-fastest 400 ever run by a collegiate female, Trotter also overtook Richards and Henderson atop the U.S. rankings in that event in 2004 as all eyes now turn to the Olympic Trials in Sacramento in July with bids to the Athens Olympiad on the line.
In tallying the first NCAA 400m championship indoors or out by a UT woman, Trotter became the initial Lady Vol to win an outdoor crown of any kind since Dedra Davis bagged gold in the long jump in 1994. Trotter is also the first Lady Vol to claim a running event title at NCAA Outdoors since LaVonna Martin did so in the 100-meter hurdles in 1987.
"Dee Dee is very talented," Clark said. "Coach (Caryl) Smith has done a great job with her. I knew she had a chance to win an NCAA championship before I came to Tennessee. She was magnificent tonight."
It appeared Bennett might just deliver the program its second championship of the night, but her valiant push in the final 100 meters came up just short of glory. As it was, the fifth-year senior from Dayton, Ohio, walked away with the first individual NCAA plaque of her career. Her 2:03.11 output put her across the line less than half a second behind victor Neisha Bernard-Thomas of LSU, who triumphed in 2:02.86 after taking the lead from Bennett after the first 200 meters and never relinquishing it. Alice Schmidt of North Carolina was third in 2:03.79.
The runner-up showing in the 800 meters was the best by a Lady Vol at that distance outdoors since 1991, when Jasmin Jones took second in the half-mile race as well as the 1500 meters that season. Additionally, Bennett narrowly missed becoming Tennessee's first NCAA champ in the 800m since Joetta Clark in 1985.
For Bennett, Saturday night's effort climaxed an impressive run of races in the 800 meters during the outdoor campaign. She had won five of her past six starts at that distance entering the meet, including the Mideast Regional title two weekends ago. The 2:03.11 clocking marked the fourth time she had dipped below 2:04 outside in 2004.
To close out the meet, Clark sent junior Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.), Bennett, junior Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) and Trotter into action in the 4x400m relay, and the quartet responded with a school-record time of 3:28.49 to capture third. Only LSU (3:25.26) and South Carolina (3:28.09) were faster, and the Lady Vols nearly caught the Gamecocks at the end, as Trotter punctuated her weekend in Austin with a sizzling 50.1 split on the anchor leg.
The 4x4 reading supplants the previous UT record of 3:28.55, which was set in 1982 by the collection of Cathy Rattray, Sharrieffa Barksdale, Joetta Clark and Delisa Walton. The record-breaking mark also gave UT the top times indoors and outdoors in school history in the 4x4 in 2004, as the indoor assembly knocked out a 3:31.49 piece of work at the inside NCAA gathering with freshman Leslie Treherne (Chesapeake ,Va.) running in place of Gorham.
"For Kameisha never having made an NCAA final, I thought she held her own," Clark said. "I am also very pleased with the mile relay, which broke the school record. That was a great way to wrap up the meet."
MEET TELEVISED NEXT WEEKEND: CBS-TV will televise a two-hour recap of the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday, June 19. Air-time is slated for 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
|* Nearly All Events Were Postponed Due To Inclement Weather|
|THURSDAY, JUNE 10|
|100m Prelims 5:20 p.m. CT|
|12th||Tianna Madison||11.35pw/5th, ht. 1 (w: 3.5)|
|21st||Toyin Olupona||11.56pw/6th, ht. 1 (w: 3.5|
|Long Jump Finals 6:30 p.m. CT|
|10th||Tianna Madison||20-8.50/6.31mpw (w: 3.2)|
|800m Prelims 6:45 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Kameisha Bennett||2:03.83p/1st, ht. 1|
|14th||Nicole Cook||2:07.01p/2nd, ht. 4|
|21st||Leslie Treherne||2:08.88p/6th, ht. 3|
|1500m Prelims 7:55 p.m. CT|
|22nd||Brooke Novak||4:31.68p/10th, ht. 2|
|DNS||Lindsay Hyatt injured, unable to run|
|4x400mR Prelims 8:30 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Antoinette Gorham/Kameisha Bennett/|
Nicole Cook/Dee Dee Trotter
2nd, ht. 2/4th overall
|FRIDAY, JUNE 11|
|Pole Vault Finals 6:30 p.m. CT|
|400m Prelims 8:20 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Dee Dee Trotter||51.59p/1st, ht. 3/3rd qualifier|
|SATURDAY, JUNE 12|
|400m Finals 6:30 p.m. CT|
|1st||Dee Dee Trotter||50.32!fs|
|800m Finals 8:35 p.m. CT|
|4x400mR Finals 9:35 p.m. CT|
|3rd||Antoinette Gorham/Kameisha Bennett|
Nicole Cook/Dee Dee Trotter
# - NCAA Regional Qualifier, * - NCAA Automatic Qualifier, + - NCAA Provisional Qualifier, ! - Personal Record (Outdoors), cr - Collegiate Record, dnf - Did Not Finish, dnq - Did Not Qualify, dnr - Did Not Run, dns - Did Not Start, dq - Disqualified, f - Facility Record, fs - False Start, h - Hand Times, m - Meters, mr - Meet Record, nm - No Mark, p - Prelims, s - School Record (Outdoors), w - Wind-Aided