Trotter's Olympic Berth a Proud Moment for Smith Gilbert

GO KNIGHTS Dee Dee Trotter credits UCF head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert for helping her earn her spot on the US Olympic Team for this year's London Games.
Dee Dee Trotter credits UCF head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert for helping her earn her spot on the US Olympic Team for this year's London Games.

June 26, 2012

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. ( - When Dee Dee Trotter qualified for her third Olympic Games on Sunday with her second-place finish in the 400 meters, the moment was sweet enough in itself. The fact that she got to share it with her longtime mentor, trainer and friend, UCF track and field head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert, made the milestone even more meaningful.

"I didn't break down until I saw her. That's when I started crying," Trotter said. "It was an unspoken feeling of `We've worked so hard and come this far.' It's been an uphill journey because I was coming from so many injuries and things that almost ruined my entire career. For us, this was a make it or break it type of thing. It was a lot of relief, joy, tears and excitement. `We did it again, big dog!' as Coach Caryl would say."

The two became a team in 2003 at Tennessee when Trotter was a sophomore and Smith Gilbert was serving her first season as an assistant coach on staff. They have been together ever since as Smith Gilbert has witnessed Trotter emerge as the 2007 USA Indoor and Outdoor Champion and a 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 4x400-meter relay. She also holds gold medals from relay wins at the 2003 and 2007 World Championships.

Trotter said their relationship has transcended that of coach-athlete. In fact, they have formed such a close bond that they have begun to sound like one another.

"A lot of people will say we sound alike. Everybody that knows both of us always says that," Trotter said. "I love and treasure her very much. She's a great coach and a phenomenal friend to me. And we mentor each other, share our experiences with each other. We have a very close relationship, we always have."

Trotter moved to Orlando in October in order to train with Smith Gilbert at UCF's track and field complex as she prepared for another run at the Olympics. While the Knights are well known for their success in short sprints, Trotter said she is living proof that Smith Gilbert knows how to get the most out of all her athletes.

"When I came to UCF this year, she is a totally different coach than she was when I was with her in college. She learned a lot from coaching me," Trotter said. "She has shown as a coach that she's willing to learn and make those adjustments necessary to be the best coach she can be. We have great workouts, and I think all that talk that she's just a 100, 200-meter coach stuff can be thrown out the window.

"She's a great coach and because she's a learning coach that makes her an even better coach in my opinion. She knows how to evolve. She's up for whatever the challenge is."

The next challenge for Smith Gilbert and the Knights awaits later this week when freshman Octavious Freeman, sophomore Aurieyall Scott and junior Sonnisha Williams compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Freeman and Scott, who both advanced to the semifinals of the 100 meters last Saturday, will run in the qualifying round of the 200 meters on Thursday at 9:45 p.m. ET and Williams will compete in the qualifying round of the long jump at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.

"We're trying to go in and get the most experience possible and run as fast as we can and jump as well as we can," Smith Gilbert said. "We're going to execute and practice running under pressure. It's a great opportunity for us now and for the future."

Four current Knights and one alumna have participated at the Trials this year. Senior Jackie Coward and alum Tiki James both ran in the 100 hurdles but fell short of qualifying for the team. Coward, along with James, will travel to Europe in the coming weeks to begin her post-collegiate track career.



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