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Specializing Brings Sprinters Into Focus

Barber and Trotter, running today in Carson, are budding stars who prospered after concentrating on signature events.

May 21, 2006|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Sprinter Lisa Barber and 400-meter specialist Dee Dee Trotter, two rising stars on the international track and field scene, will compete in today's Adidas Track Classic at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

The running careers of both athletes took off after they began concentrating on different events.

For years, Barber was regarded as a quarter-miler along with her twin sister Miki. They ran and won together, first at Montclair (N.J.) High and then at South Carolina.

As a 400 runner, Barber was successful but always fell short in big races. But after the sisters moved to Raleigh, N.C., to train under Coach Trevor Graham in 2004, Barber decided to concentrate solely on shorter races and her sister became injured.

Barber has been a growing force in the sprint world ever since.

"I know my abilities now and know what I can do," said Barber, a two-time NCAA champion in the 1,600-meter relay. "Plus, I have a strong will to win.

"At South Carolina, I really didn't focus on any one. I would run everything, from the 100 to the 400 and all the relays.... When I went to train in North Carolina, that's the first time that I considered myself a sprinter."

Before joining Graham's training group, which includes men's 100 world co-record holder Justin Gatlin, Barber's top time was 11.35 seconds.

By the end of last year, she was the national champion in the 100 and a gold medal winner at the world championships in the 400-meter relay.

"Everything is just so much more intense, from the track to the weight workouts," Barber said about the peer pressure felt training under Graham.

"It's a great environment because most of the people I'm working with, I knew from college.... I am so glad that I made the switch."

Barber will be tested today when she runs in the women's 100 against Jamaican Veronica Campbell, 2005 world championships silver medalist in the 200, and Torri Edwards, 2003 world champion.

Trotter's change of event came more accidentally than it did for Barber.

In high school, Trotter was one of the top sprinters in Georgia, winning a state title in the 200 and ranking among the nation's best in the event as a senior in 2001.

She continued to specialize in the 100 and 200 at Tennessee until she entered a 400 in the middle of her sophomore season.

"I just thought of myself as a shorter sprinter because that's all I knew," said Trotter, who still trains under her college coach, Caryl Smith.

"I was one of those kids who just ran track to stay busy. I was a basketball player and a cheerleader. I didn't even know what the world [championships] was when I found out that I had made the team."

Trotter's climb up the U.S. 400 list was rapid. She went from finishing second behind Sanya Richards in the NCAA final to a gold medal in the 2003 world championships, competing on the 1,600-meter relay team in less than three months.

"But I still didn't know what I was doing," said Trotter, whose running style features a late kick over the final 100 meters.

The next year, she began to take the 400 more seriously and won the NCAA title and a spot on the 2004 Olympic team.

She finished fifth in the 400 and earned a gold medal in the 1,600-meter relay at the Olympics.

After the 2004 season, Trotter gave up her final year of college eligibility to turn professional and has continued to improve. Last year, Trotter won the U.S. indoor 400 title and finished second at the national outdoor championships.

One of Trotter's main competitors today was expected to be Ana Guevara, but the 2003 world champion from Mexico pulled out of the race because of an infected tooth.

But Trotter will have to deal with former UCLA standout Monique Henderson along with Jamaica's Shellene Williams, Ronetta Smith and Novlene Williams.

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