June 4, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee women's track & field assistant Caryl Smith Gilbert, whose pupils helped the Lady Volunteers win an NCAA Indoor Championship in 2005, is moving on. The fifth-year Big Orange aide was named Tuesday as the head coach of the women's program at the University of Central Florida.
Smith Gilbert traveled Monday with the UT women to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif. She is expected to continue working with the Lady Vol sprinters and hurdlers through the USA Senior and Junior Championships, which are scheduled to take place June 20-24 in Indianapolis, Ind., and take over the UCF post on July 1.
"It's really an exciting time for me right now," Smith Gilbert said "I have worked hard over the past 10 years trying to do a good job as an assistant, and I have learned from several head coaches how to lead a program. That was especially the case at Tennessee. I think this opportunity is one that is going to be very fruitful because of the support of the administration and the new direction the UCF athletic department wants to go."
A native of Denver, Colo., and a 1991 graduate of UCLA, Smith Gilbert was hired by UT Head Coach J.J. Clark shortly after he was named to direct the Tennessee women's track & field and cross country programs in May of 2002. She had previously served as an assistant at Alabama and Penn State and had been a prep coach at Denver's George Washington High School.
"Obviously, losing Caryl is a great loss for our program," Clark said. "I've always been a positive person, though, and I am very happy to see her move forward, make progress and become a head coach.
"Caryl has become a very well-known sprint coach at the University of Tennessee, and this is a great opportunity for her and her family. We're sad to see her leave, but at the same time we are happy that she will have the chance to be a Division I head coach. Those opportunities are rare, and you have to capitalize on them when they come your way."
Since her arrival at Rocky Top five years ago, Smith Gilbert has overseen one of the finest sprint/jump/hurdles groups in the nation. Entering the 2007 NCAA Outdoor meet, she has produced nine All-Americans, earning 57 awards, and two athletes who brought home four national championships. Additionally, she has tutored five SEC champions who won eight titles in five different events.
She was recognized in 2005 as the USTCA National Women's Assistant Coach of the Year for sprints and hurdles and garnered those accolades for the Mideast Region that year as well. This season, she was chosen to coach the sprints and combined events for the U.S. women's squad that will compete at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 2.
"I have had a great time working at the University of Tennessee," Smith Gilbert said. "Everything we went through as a team, I learned from, and that's made me a better person and coach. The things I learned at UT are irreplaceable, and I can't say enough about how proud I am of the athletes I had the privilege to work with on a daily basis."
Among the most well known of her Lady Vol pupils were Dee Dee Trotter and Tianna Madison, both of whom left UT as underclass performers to pursue professional careers. Trotter, who turned pro after her junior season, won an NCAA Outdoor title in the 400 meters in 2004 and went on to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, winning gold with the U.S. 4x400m relay and taking fifth individually in the open 400 meters. Madison, meanwhile, left the program after a sensational sophomore season in 2005 that saw her sweep the NCAA and SEC Indoor and Outdoor titles in the long jump and deliver a shocking victory at the IAAF World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
In addition to contributing to UT's NCAA Indoor title in 2005, Smith Gilbert's charges helped the Lady Vols win SEC Indoor Championships in 2005 and 2007 and an NCAA Mideast Regional outdoor crown in 2005. The Big Orange women also posted top-10 team finishes at the NCAA Indoor meet in 2004 (4th), 2005 (1st) and 2007 (3rd) and at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2004 (t7th) and 2005 (4th).
This season, Smith Gilbert had four athletes who earned NCAA All-America honors indoors. They included juniors Courtney Champion (60m/200m) and LaTonya Loche (DMR), sophomore Celriece Law (60m hurdles) and freshman Nia Ali (60m hurdles). Champion was the NCAA runner-up in the 60m dash and took third in the 200m dash. Loche ran a leg on UT's runner-up distance medley relay unit, while Ali and Loche placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in the hurdles.
At this week's outdoor championships, she will have six pupils in action, including Ali (heptathlon), Law (100mH), Loche (400m/4x100mR), junior Cleo Tyson (4x100mR), sophomore Tiki James (4x100mR) and freshman Lynne Layne (100m/200m/4x100mR).