By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
ATHENS, Ga. – It might be appropriate to term senior Georgia swimmer Wendy Trott the Renaissance woman of collegiate swimming.
Trott, the 2011-12 recipient of the Southeastern Conference’s H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, has seemingly accomplished it all – in the pool, in the classroom and in the community.
And she hasn’t just made an impact in each of those areas, she excels at an incredibly high level in all aspects of her life.
Trott finished her career as one of only five athletes in NCAA history ever to win three consecutive national titles in the women's 1,650 freestyle event and is the only athlete in SEC history to capture that event four consecutive years at the annual league championships.
She also won an SEC title in the 500 freestyle in 2010. Trott has represented South Africa at several international events, including the 2008 Olympics. She recently qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Trott is a native of Capetown, South Africa, and competed for her home country at the 2008 Olympic Games, placing ninth in the 800 freestyle in that event.
To be a miler in the sport of swimming, especially at such a high level, it comes down to physical endurance and mental toughness. It just so happens that Trott is one of the best there is in both aspects.
“I’ve been doing long distance for a long time,” Trott said. “I’ve just been gradually building up and I get better and better the more I do. It’s something that you have to have a predisposition for, you have to be a little bit crazy to do this, but it’s also something that you have to gradually work on.”
It’s that work that is done behind the scenes, away from the cheering crowds and the awards podiums of championship meets that makes the difference in Trott’s success.
“I think that I am naturally just more of an endurance athlete,” Trott said. “[Georgia associate head coach] Harvey [Humphries] prepares us so well for this event. We put in the mileage. He makes sure we are mentally prepared for a long and tough race. That kind of training prepares us; it is pretty much everything, especially in a mile. It’s all about the work that you put in before and how tough you are before that moment.”
Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle, in his 33rd season at the helm, says Trott’s mental toughness is an important factor, but her consistency is equally as crucial to her success.
“We have some very talented kids that are mentally tough,” Bauerle said. “Certainly, she is at the top of how consistent she is day-to-day. It’s pretty easy to be mentally tough at a meet, but she is that way every day; she is prepared to win. There’s never a day where she comes in looking for an easy way out. She gets it done and goes after it. She is very, very consistent and doesn’t get down on herself. She has some days where it may just be pretty good, but she just doesn’t have bad days. That’s important.”
When at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships Trott was named the NCAA’s Elite 89 Award recipient, recognizing the athlete in the sport of swimming and diving with the highest grade point average at the championship site, it seemed more fitting than anything.
“Wendy is very special and I think she has a pretty good chance to win an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship as well,” Bauerle said. “She carries a 3.97 in international affairs, she has won the mile three straight times and, as we say, she can read and write a little bit. She’s really special on campus too. She is very highly thought of by the faculty. She is an amazing young lady – charming, sweet and tough when she’s on the blocks. It’s a perfect combination. She was a pretty high SAT kid coming in, but she also worked at it after she got here too, so it has been pretty cool.”
While Trott may go down as one of the best swimmers to compete among a highly accomplished list of athletes in Georgia history, she also may etch her name as one of the best students ever to come through the program as well.
“It has to do with my family,” Trott said. “They raised me to believe that sport was all very well and could take me so far, but only to a certain level. Academics have always been the most important thing to my family. It’s something that I keep up with and balance with swimming, because when swimming is over, I’m going to have to go and get another job.”
Just how does she juggle it all at such a high level? It all comes down to what is important, Trott said.
“What it boils down to is being an athlete and being a student is all about time management and being committed to doing both things,” Trott said. “It’s about finding time and finding a way to where you can be successful in both. There are certain skills in swimming that carry over to the classroom and certain skills in the classroom that carry over to swimming. It’s definitely reinforcing.”
Trott’s list of academic and community accomplishments is much too long to list, but a sampling includes being a member of Georgia’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, earning a nod on the SEC’s Community Service Team, being chosen as a recipient of the Ramsey Scholarship for Academic and Athletic Excellence and earning the 2011-12 Joel Eaves Scholar-Athlete Award as the senior with the highest grade-point average in the entire athletic program. She also was the SEC’s 2012 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the sport of women’s swimming and diving.
Bauerle has watched Trott’s balancing act with admiration, calling her “mature beyond her years.”
“She’s just one of those people who is capable of a heck of a lot,” Bauerle said. “She was just inducted into one of our oldest societies on campus and that really made me proud; it’s basically for the leaders on campus. She’s exceptionally smart, but she’s also exceptionally aware of what’s going on around her. Sometimes, when we come in at 5:30 in the morning for practice, some kids are just trying to figure out where they are, but Wendy is over there talking with other swimmers about politics or something. She has an educated opinion about everything and she’s great to be around. Some of her professors that I have met consider her to be a star academically.”
Trott is majoring in international affairs with a minor in French. The course of study seemed to be a perfect fit with her interests, and Trott hopes to one day use her knowledge for a successful career in her chosen field.
“My major is international affairs and I am really interested in that,” Trott said. “I want to do either diplomacy or public policy. I am planning on going to graduate school in a little while, as well. I never really knew what I wanted to do, but I loved history in high school; I liked arguing and debating what was going on in the world and I am very opinionated about everything. The major kind of stuck out to me. I started looking into it, started taking the classes and I absolutely loved it.”
In the pool, Trott finished her career ranked first in school history in the 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle, fourth in the 500 freestyle and seventh in the 400 individual medley.
Trott attributes much of her success both in and away from the pool to Bauerle and the Georgia coaching staff.
“I really can’t say enough about our coaching staff and how much they put into our team,” Trott said. “They are definitely a huge part of why I chose to come to Georgia in the first place and they haven’t disappointed. They do everything they possibly can to help us achieve and it’s an opportunity that I’m so grateful for, this chance to become a better person, it’s not just about swimming. It has been very special.”