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This Week in UT Sports History – June 22nd-28th

Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little

On Friday, Tennessee’s men’s basketball team announced one male student-athlete tested positive for the coronavirus. The announcement comes shortly after student-athletes returned to campus at the first of this month for summer practices. Other universities, like Clemson — which announced 28 positive cases of COVID-19 among student-athletes and staff — contend with ramifications of allowing players, coaches, trainers, and staff to return. With cases continuing to rise in some states, the status of fall sports — and university activities at large —remains tenuous.

To preserve health and safety, fans might well need to resign themselves to staying away from stadiums and arenas this fall. Albeit disappointing, at least outlets like ESPN and league-specific channels offer game replays while the world awaits a full return to sports. The future remains uncertain, but the past remains to reminisce. Take a look at “This Week in UT Sports History.”

June 24, 2005

A new cable network debuted in March 2005, offering exclusive coverage of collegiate athletics. ESPNU concluded its inaugural college baseball season with a telecast of the 28th annual Golden Spikes Award on June 24th, recognizing the country’s top amateur baseball player.

The award, presented by USA Baseball, honors an exemplary athlete for both athletic abilities and sportsmanship. Fifteen years ago, a Vol rounded out the finalists. Tennessee pitcher Luke Hochevar, a 6-foot-5 junior from Fowler, Colorado, earned the title of SEC Pitcher of the Year on his way to consensus first-team All-American status and a finalist recognition for the Golden Spikes Award.

Hochevar, who won the Roger Clemens National Pitcher of the Year that season, stood in the company of juniors from Miami (Ryan Bruan, INF), Southern California (Jeff Clement, C), Arizona (Trevor Crowe, OF) and Nebraska (Alex Gordon, INF). Current Kansas City Royal Alex Gordon took the award. However, Hochevar would later become Gordon’s teammate, with some bragging rights of his own. Kansas City selected Hochever first overall in the 2006 MLB Draft.

With the pick, Hochevar became the first Vol ever taken No. 1 overall. He had been drafted twice previously, taken 40th overall by the Dodgers in 2005 and in the 39th round of the 2002 MLB Draft following his high school career.

Hochevar opted to sit out of the majors for a season, pitching instead for the Fort Worth Cats in the independent American Association after being drafted in 2005.

“The Dodgers felt I was not worthy to be paid with the top pitchers from last year’s draft,” Hochevar said. As then Tennessean staff writer Chris Low contended, Hochevar and agent Scott Boras knew what they were doing in the decision to wait.

The pick came as no surprise to Hochevar’s former coach, Rod Delmonico.

“You know what his leverage was? His talent,” Delmonico said. “The guy has tremendous makeup and works harder than anybody I’ve ever had at Tennessee.”

Though he missed out on the Golden Spikes Award this week in 2005, Hochevar found success on the major league mound. He retired in 2018.

June 27, 2009

The U.S. Track & Field Championships fostered fierce competition in Eugene, Oregon. As the races for the IAAF World Championships intensified, all eyes turned toward nine-time All-American Sarah Bowman.

Bowman, a senior at Tennessee, earned much recognition as a distance runner. By May 2009, she held three NCAA champion and 11 SEC victor titles. Track & Field News magazine featured her on its June cover after a stellar senior season.

“It’s a great honor,” former Tennessee head coach J.J. Clark said. “You don’t make the cover of Track & Field News because you’re slow. She’s just had a tremendous year, and she’s deserving of being on that cover.”

With high expectations, Bowman got set for the start of the 1500 meters. She stormed off the block. Then, a tight pack closed in around her during the first 100 meters. She finished in 11th place, coming up short of the IAAF qualifying mark. The race ended her career in a Lady Vol uniform.

One month later, Bowman earned an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship to continue her education. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in business in May 2009 with a 3.87 grade point average. The NCAA postgraduate scholarships go to student-athletes who prove their prowess both on fields and courts and in the classroom.

June 24, 2012

Three years later at the same Hayward Field in Oregon, three former Tennessee track stars secured spots for the London Olympic Games at the U.S. Olympic Trials. A crowd of 21,809 looked on as Justin Gatlin, DeeDee Trotter, and Tianna Madison raced to their spots on the national team.

Gatlin rushed to a career-best 9.80 seconds in the 100-meter dash to take the title of America’s fastest man. The crowd stood electrified as the Olympic gold medalist made his return to the sport after a notable suspension for a positive drug test. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Gatlin took gold in the 100 meters, a silver medal on the 4×100 meter relay team, and a bronze medal in the 200 meters. In 2012, his time stood second in the world behind Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

“If he [Bolt] is in lane four doing a tap dance, I’m in lane three doing my thing,” Gatlin said. “…I’m my own person. I can’t mimic that.”

Meanwhile, Trotter did more than trot. A strong finish in the 400-meter dash earned her a second place medal and a qualifying mark in her third Olympic Games. With glitter on her face, she anticipated her return to the world stage. She helped earn a gold medal for the U.S. in the 4×400 meter relay in Athens in 2004.

At the Olympic trails in 2008, Trotter ran with a broken bone chip in her left leg. She finished third in the 400-meter dash to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the injury forced her out of the finals. Four years later, following successful surgery and conditioning, she found her chance again.

“Making the team has been my only focus this year,” Trotter said. “I’ve been training for this all year long. This accomplishment today is a godsend. It’s really a blessing. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to work for.”

Trotter would again earn a gold medal on the 4×400 relay team in London.

With the continuing global spread of COVID-19, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo face postponement to 2021. Competition is anticipated to begin July 23rd and last through Aug. 8, 2021.

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