Brigetta Barrett celebrates winning silver in the women's high jump final at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Aug. 11, 2012 in London, England.
Brigetta Barrett knew when she enrolled at the University of Arizona that she wanted to do big things. She just had to wait to see what they were.
“I was definitely focused on trying to get everything out of college that I could,” said Barrett, speaking just days after she won her sixth NCAA championship in the high jump. “I wanted it to be something where it was this unforgettable, unbelievable experience. I wanted to leave a mark, wanted to do something. I didn’t know exactly what that was, but you know when you have a desire to be great but you don’t know what that looks like, or what that means? My college experience has been just indescribable."
College athletes such as Barrett are part of the reason why the U.S. Olympic Committee has been so successful. Not only has she had success on the collegiate level, but also she represented Team USA at the London 2012 Olympic Games and earned a silver medal.
At a luncheon Friday, Arizona was one of 41 schools that received the U.S. Olympic Achievement Award for the universities’ roles in developing and contributing athletes and coaches to Team USA’s success at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Overall, 37 coaches representing 31 institutions helped Team USA produce medals in nine sports, and 30 U.S. athletes from 19 collegiate programs garnered 36 medals in London last summer. For a complete list of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Achievement Award Recipients click here.
By jumping 6 feet, 4.75 inches (1.95 meters) at the NCAA Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Barrett won her third NCAA outdoor title to go with three indoor titles. Her six victories eclipsed the five titles won by Olympian Amy Acuff of UCLA (three indoor, two outdoor).
Yet six NCAA championships is just part of her story. During her college career, Barrett:
• Was selected to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team and won a silver medal in London, where she jumped a career-best 6 feet, 8 inches (2.03 meters)
• Set the NCAA women’s high jump record of 6 feet, 6¼ inches (1.99 meters) at the Pac-12 Conference championships in May
• Was selected Pac-12 Conference Woman of the Year
• Sang the national anthem at the opening of the NCAA championships in Eugene this month, before the Fiesta Bowl game in January and an Arizona Diamondbacks game
• Graduated cum laude in May with a degree in theater arts (with two minors) while also earning Academic All-America honors
• Was elected co-president of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and co-president of the Committed to Christ organization at Arizona
• Was voted homecoming queen
• Has produced a play, performed in a musical, written poetry, done a TV commercial for the Pac-12 and challenged herself to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself
|Silver medalist Brigetta Barrett poses on the podium during the
medal ceremony for the women's high jump at the
London 2012 Olympic Games on Aug. 11, 2012 in London, England.
As Sheldon Blockburger, the University of Arizona jumps coach, told a reporter recently: “She just needs to have her own camera following her around, because the way she goes through life is amazing. We could call it, ‘The World According to Brigetta.’ It’s definitely different than everyone else’s world. But that’s what makes her so fun to be around.”
And fun is one of the things that motivates Barrett, 22. She classifies herself one minute as “a very unique type of personality” and follows that up by acknowledging she’s “a little weird.”
“I’m OK with being who I am,” she said. “I love to sing when most people think it’s inappropriate to sing, or I have a lot of fun when I practice. Me and Sheldon both create a very fun, stress-free workout environment. But I understand not everybody works out like that. Some people think if you’re laughing and playing you’re not taking the task at hand seriously, but I believe that in order to do what you love you have to love doing it, and so they go hand-in-hand with me and hand-in-hand with my coach. I’m just a different kind of person.”
She doesn’t want her whole life to be about one thing, whether it’s high jumping or school or singing. She’s strong in her Christian faith and believes in putting God first in her life. Once that priority is in place, things will happen as they are meant to happen, she says – like all the opportunities and successes she’s had over the past four years.
“The way I would sum it up, is when God does a thing, he does it very well,” she said, laughing.
* * *
Barrett was one of two University of Arizona athletes to medal at the London Games. Alyssa Anderson, who swam a leg in the preliminary round for the women’s 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay, brought home a gold medal.
Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne received the trophy from the U.S. Olympic Committee at the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors Convention in Orlando, Fla.
“The success of our Olympic sports and our Olympians, including Brigetta Barrett and Alyssa Anderson, are a source of pride for our athletics department, the Tucson community and the state of Arizona,” Byrne said. “It’s encouraging to the hard work of our student-athletes recognized within the success of competition and earning an Olympic medal is a tremendous accomplishment.
“For our more than 450 student-athletes, we want to provide the most positive, energetic, diligent and enriching environment possible. … We’re here to support and provide for our student-athletes as much as we can, on and off the field.”
For Barrett, Arizona has been her launching pad to so many things. After splitting her high school years between upstate New York and Texas, she was looking for a school that would allow her to flourish in the high jump, but also in theater arts. It came down to Arizona or the University of Nebraska, and she’s happy she landed in Tucson.
|Brigetta Barrett competes in the women's high jump qualification at
the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Daegu Stadium
on Sept. 1, 2011 in Daegu, South Korea.
The school, the people and Blockburger provided the foundation for her success. Her relationship with Blockburger is something she cherishes.
“I think anybody that meets him or spends time with him — just like any athletes that have come through his life — it’s that same kind of impression: that you met a special person,” she said. “You’re not going to meet another person like Sheldon Blockburger. His record speaks for itself, and the athletes that have come through him and the way they’ve grown.”
Now comes the next chapter in her life. Leaving college gives her the chance to set new goals and start with another blank slate.
Later this week, Barrett will be in Des Moines, Iowa, for the USA Outdoor Championships and is hoping to qualify for the IAAF World Championships in August in Moscow. She also hopes to continue to refine her acting and singing talents.
She enters the USA Outdoor Championships having posted the second-best high jump mark in the world (1.99 meters) behind Russia’s Anna Chicherova (2.02). Barrett’s goal for the USA Outdoor Championships is to reach “at least 2.06 meters,” she said, adding, “and then as close to the world record as possible. This year my main focus has been becoming the American record holder... and do whatever it takes to win the worlds. And be consistent.”
She also would like another chance to compete in another Olympic Games.
Her experience in London last year still seems like it happened to someone else.
“I’m not going to lie,” she said. “Most of my experience in London felt very surreal. I spent most of my time trying to get back into my body, if that makes sense, like I was the eye of the fly on my own wall and I’m trying to get back into my body so I can straight enjoy everything that’s happening. Not to say I didn’t enjoy everything, but I spent most of my time trying to believe that I was there, trying to convince myself that this was a real moment.”
Fortunately, she has a silver souvenir to prove she was there the whole time.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Doug Williams is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.