Jan. 26, 2012
Senior thrower Annie Alexander already has stamped her name in the record books at Tennessee, but she is still hoping that her final season at Rocky Top will be her best one yet.
At the Auburn Invitational on Jan. 21, Alexander launched the shot 58 feet and one inch, breaking her previous indoor school record of 57-2, set in 2009, by 11 inches. Alexander, whose performance earned her SEC Women's Field Athlete of the Week this week, has placed first in the shot put at both meets the Lady Vols have attended this season.
The 58-1 throw gave Alexander an automatic bid to the NCAA Indoor National Championships in Nampa, Idaho, but she is not getting complacent before then. With four individual third-place finishes at national championships to her name, Alexander's main goal for this year is to win an individual national title.
When did you first get interested in field events and throwing?
"Actually, I was not interested in field events. I used to run. I was a track athlete, and my P.E. teacher in high school saw my potential for field events, and she sent me on to my former coach, Miss Thomas, and that was in 2001. It just sort of happened, but then I grew to have a passion for it when I figured it out."
Did you compete in other sports or other track events prior to that?
"Before shot put and discus, I ran the 100m all the way up to the 800m, and I also played netball, which is similar to basketball, but you can't dribble the ball."
When did you start training to throw and what sort of strength training did you do before you arrived at UT?
"October 2001, I was 15. Starting off, I was not allowed to go to the weight room, so I made my own weights, and I used to do that, or first to get drinking water at home, we carried buckets of water to the house from the pipe, and that was my strength training, carrying buckets of water."
How did you make your own weights?
"My mom bought me cement, and we mixed it and poured it into buckets with pieces of iron."
Do you have any other family members who compete in sports? If so, who and which sports?
"I have a cousin who plays field hockey."
What is it like working with Coach Frazier?
"It's awesome. I think Coach Frazier's personality (he can be fun and goofy) kind of matches my personality. We get along pretty well. I have grown a lot as an athlete, so we understand each other a lot better now, but he's an amazing coach."
Do you have a favorite meet? Does any track and field complex have a better atmosphere than another?
"Before I went to Texas A&M, I really loved Arkansas, but only for SEC Championships and when we actually compete in the arena and not on the outside. But I like Arkansas. I love Sea Rays, if we're talking outdoors, because I love competing for the people of Tennessee and they come out to support us. People come to support the meets, and your friends come. You try to explain your event to your friends and they really don't get it, and they get to come out and see what you're doing. It's just really good, besides having your teammates, to have additional people cheering you on."
Do you have any pre-throw or pre-meet superstitions or rituals?
"The night before I compete, I have to put my feet in hot water. If I don't do it, I feel really off balance. Besides that, I have a theme song to listen to."
Do you get nervous before you throw?
"Always. It's nervous in a better way now, but I'm always nervous and I have to get that first throw to actually feel like it's time to compete. I always get that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling."
What do you think about when you're getting ready to throw and during the throw?
"I always see my mom-it's kind of bad. I'm not trying to hit her, but I always picture my mom being there with me. I love her, so I always want to do well for her. Even if she's not there in person, I always see her out there, and I'm trying to throw to get to her."
What's your favorite thing about throwing?
"The psych of it. I get to be myself when I throw. When you go to class, you have to be professional, but when you throw, you can just be yourself and be that inner person that nobody really sees. I just like the atmosphere of it. Being competitive, and after all the hard work you put in, being able to go out there and just do something."
Do fans and cheering help you get pumped for your throws?
"It's really good to hear your teammates, but now, I really depend on hearing Laquoya's [Kelly] voice, and she says, `Let's go!' and I know they're there. It's really good having them there and having them cheer you on. It lets you know you have a support system."
What are the major differences between competing for UT and competing for your home country?
"I think the major difference is having a lot of people around the same age group and in the same age range. You have that common goal of fight, fight, fight. When you're on an international team, you do have the same support system, but you're kind of on your own and by yourself because you have to get it done. There's no more team; it's individual that you get it done. Even though with UT track is still an individual, you have people supporting you all the way."
What made you decide to come to UT?
"Out of all the schools in the SEC that spoke to me, or within the U.S., Coach Frazier was the only coach that mentioned academics to me, and I'm really big on education. He was the only coach that said, `I really want you to graduate and let you throw as far as you can,' and I was sold."
What is the sense of camaraderie like among the Lady Vols? Does the team have any group traditions?
"We started competing two weeks ago and I've been telling my teammates we have to come back with our chant from 2009 because it had all of us on fire, but as a team, we usually get a team break, and we support whoever, whether you're up jumping, throwing, or running. We're there as a support system, and that's what we try to do. Even when you think you're alone and by yourself, you hear that one person call your name out and you know somebody's looking."
What do you like to do in Knoxville when you aren't in class or training?
"Sleep. If I don't have school or am working on my training, I try to do the On Demand catch-up of my favorite shows. Besides that, a lot of times I'm tired so I go to bed."
What's your favorite sport to play, or just watch, other than throwing?
"I have become, it's kind of unfortunate, a really big fan of American football. I sit there and scream at the TV. And when I just got here, I was like, `What's going on?' I had never seen anything like it, but I'm a really big fan of American football. I really like the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants."
Who are athletes you admire?
"I really look up to former Florida standout Candice Scott, my countrywoman, because she always has such inspirational words to give me, and (former UT volunteer assistant) Aretha Hill Thurmond. They always have encouraging words. When you're a young athlete coming up, they always have inspirational things to say, and I feel like if I had to call somebody or email somebody, they always have positive feedback."
What's something interesting about you that people may not know?
"I can dance. Not contemporary dancing, but I can hip hop dance."
What's the one thing you can't live without?
"Water. I'm a big fan of water. I can't live without water. If I have to choose a drink, that would be it. It tastes like juice to me. It doesn't even have to be cold."
How did redshirting indoors last year affect your performance outdoors last year and indoors this year?
"I think redshirting indoors last year has helped me grow as an individual, not so much as an athlete, because I figured out so much about myself. I know my weaknesses and my strengths as an athlete, as a student and as an individual. It helped me so much outdoors because I was hungry to prove myself. I had a great season (`my coach said it was great, so I'll say that') and just carried it into the off-season. I've been working really hard because this is my last year, and I really want to leave my mark at UT. I just want to leave it so it stays there for a little while."
What injuries/surgery did you go through after your freshman year? How did you handle that situation?
"I had popliteal artery entrapment, and I had the corrective surgery for that. Mentally, at first, I had hit a breaking point. I wasn't sure how I was going to be an athlete again. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to come back. It was weird. I hate being in the training room to rehab, but it was something I had to do. Just doing the time and having friends around, it really helped. Because sometimes when you reach that breaking point, you think, `I could quit here, I could stop,' but you have people who believe in you and who know what you're capable of, so it was good to have my friends and coaches and trainers around."
How exciting was it to get an NCAA automatic qualifying mark and break your school record at the Auburn Invitational?
"I will be honest. I was aware that I broke the record, but I wasn't aware that I was qualified. I wasn't thinking straight. It was not until Jessie said that I had an automatic way to nationals that I realized I had. It was kind of surprising. This early in the season, it's definitely good to stamp my name on that ticket to go to nationals. I just know I have to work harder, because when you make it to nationals, that's when everybody comes to compete. It's a good feeling, and I'm still hungry; I'm still going after it."
What are your expectations for the season?
"To be honest, I know what it feels like to be a national champion as part of a team, I know what it feels like to be an SEC champion and All-American. I haven't had the joy of feeling what an individual national champion feels like. That's my goal. And, outdoors, it's making it all the way to the Olympics. That's my goal for 2012. And whatever I have to do to get there, that's what I'll do."
What's the process for going to the Olympics?
"If you throw the standard throughout the year, that's a good thing. I have to go back to Trinidad for the national championships there. It would be really good if I could repeat it, because then you really stamp your name and say, `I did it,' but really it's about obtaining the standards and proving yourself all year long. I know it's possible. I just have to get it done."
What is your major, and what are you favorite classes?
"My major is journalism and electronic media. I have to say, I give respect to people who major in political science. I thought it was just that you go to class and listen to the professor, but it's so much work. I'm doing a minor in political science. I have to be honest, my 400 journalism class may have been my best class at UT. It was Law and Ethics. It called for your point of view, as well as facts and back up information. It was just an intense class. It was hard, but I made it through."
What career would you like to have after you complete your competitive career?
"Number one on the list is to be a professional athlete. Besides that, I would like to be a sports commentator or an anchor. A sports reporter. I would like to be a sports journalist. I'm a pretty good writer."