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UT signee Rotella keeping Vol family tradition alive
Taylor looking for state shot put crown as a Bearden senior


Taylor Rotella, soon to become a third generation athlete at The University of Tennessee, fell in love with “The Big Orange” in New Jersey — of all places.

“I’ve been singing Rocky Top since I was three years old,” said Rotella, a Bearden High School senior looking to, in the short run, capture a state title in shot put.

In the long run — next season — she’ll join the Lady Vols’ track and field team as a hammer and weight thrower in addition to shot put and discus.

Though growing up in New Jersey before moving to Knoxville and BHS prior to her sophomore year, Taylor said her family is “Big Orange” through-and-through.

“I’m sure we were the only Vol fans in New Jersey,” said Rotella, whose father, Mike, played for Bill Battle’s football Vols in the early 1970s; her grandfather, the late Al Rotella. played for legendary Gen. Robert Neyland as a tackle (1942, 46-47 ), and uncle, standout linebacker Jamie Rotella, also played under Battle (’70-72).

“Saturday was game-day in our house. My uncle {Jamie] has this old Vol room, and we’d go in there and watch games on Saturdays.”

Saying work drew Mike back to Knoxville after Taylor’s freshman year, “Track is huge down here compared to New Jersey,” Taylor said. “We didn’t have a coach or anything, we just kinda threw.”

As for choosing UT, “It just seemed right with me,” Taylor said. “Coach [John] Frazier’s just an amazing coach, and we get along great. I happy to come here because there’s a tradition of winning in women’s sports.

“My family’s not really ever put pressure on me to attend U-T,” she added. “I know my father’s ecstatic I’m attending here ... and carry on the tradition.”

While saying she’ll participate in shot put and discus as a Lady Vol, “my main events are the hammer and weight throw,” Taylor said, adding she competes “in the summer and in the winter” in hammer and weight throw events not part of TSSAA’s events. “I’ve been doing the hammer two or three years, and I just started the weight [throw] this January.”

During the Nike Indoor Nationals in Baltimore, Md. In March, Taylor came in 11th out of 40 in the weight throw, with a personal best 42-feet-73. “That’s a lot, nationals is a pretty big meet,” she said. “The top in the nation all came to that meet.”

“In the summer I go to Junior Olympics with U-S-A-T-F,” where Rotella said she finished third in the hammer between her sophomore and junior years. She has qualified nationally three consecutive years.

Rotella said her personal best in the hammer is 113-feet.

As for her remaining matches at BHS — Region I meet and hopefully TSSAA Class AAA state meet — “Obviously I’d love to win the state in shot put, I’d love to have my picture up on the wall at Bearden High School,” she said.

Among her top accomplishments this season at BHS was being named “Outstanding Thrower” during the 11-team Dale Legg Invitational at Anderson County High School April 19.

INITIAL INTEREST

Sparking her interest in throwing, “The summer before my freshman year I came to U-T Track Camp …. “Kim Roseberry, who’s the head clerk here for Coach O, said, ‘You’d be a great thrower,’” Taylor said. “Just the first time I picked up a shot put, it just felt right — some things you just feel good about, and I feel like I was naturally drawn to it.”

She then threw shot put and discus in New Jersey as a freshman.

Upon moving to Knoxville, “I began with Knoxville Track Club,” Taylor said. “April Thomas was our throws coach, and she introduced me to hammer. Catherine Erikson she’s a friend of mine, she used to be throws coach at U-T, and this summer she decided to help me with the weight throw. She did a great job, I learned a lot from her.”

Taylor said that upon giving up basketball and allotting more time to lifting weights, “That just really changed my life,” she said, crediting trainer Duane Adair for his assistance. “He’s been my rock.

“Lifting weights has definitely helped me increase and improve in my throwing events.”

 

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