Track's Barrett born to high jump
Arizona Summer Wildcat File Photo
In life, there is a moment when one discovers exactly what they were meant to do with their existence.
For junior Arizona high jumper Brigetta Barrett, that moment came when she was a young child, racing neighborhood kids up and down the street for candy or money to take to the corner store.
Track was not the only thing that shaped young Barrett’s mind. As a young girl, Barrett fell in love with profound musical talents like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. She also loved to dance, prompting her to declare herself a theatre arts major at Arizona.
“As far as what I wanted, I wanted to be an entertainer,” Barrett said. “I loved to listen to Diana Ross, so I never just wanted to be an athlete.”
After failing to make the girl’s basketball team at her high school, despite her slender 6-foot frame, Barrett could have focused her attention solely on performing and singing, but fate intervened when some of Barrett’s close classmates told her they were trying out for the track team.
“I didn’t really know what track was, but hey, I know I’m going to compete so why not?” Barrett said. “I didn’t know it was necessarily the right sport for me.”
When Barrett began to realize her talents on her high school high jump team becoming one of the top high school high jumpers in the nation, her goal of making it to college despite her family’s inability to afford full tuition became more of a reality.
“Track became more of a means to an ends in my mind, because I realized that my family wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to afford college,” Barrett said. “I knew I wanted to go to college, I wanted to graduate from college, I wanted to get a degree and make something out of myself, and that’s what track became for me.”
Barrett pushed herself harder, setting the school high jump record at Duncanville High School in Duncanville, Texas.
Her athletic successes led her to Arizona where head coach Fred Harvey and jumps coach Sheldon Blockburger were immediately impressed with her personality as her athletic abilities.
“She’s more athletic than anybody I’ve ever coached,” Blockburger said. “She wants to be the best in the world.”
“She’s the same young lady in terms of a personality standpoint that we recruited and asked to come to Arizona.” Harvey added. “Everything that it really takes to be an Olympic athlete, those are the changes we’ve really seen in her.”
The kid from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., a town of 6,018, who at one time didn’t know if track was the right sport for her, had accomplished one of her biggest goals: becoming a collegiate athlete.
The next step for Barrett was to dominate the competition, which she has done with relative ease, winning an indoor high jump championship her freshman season. She followed that up with NCAA titles in both the indoor and outdoor high jump and her fourth All-American honor with two years of eligibility remaining.
Her successes as a Wildcat considered, her best season, and one of the best seasons an Arizona track athlete has posted in school history in the past twelve months. All that is one huge step away from ending, as Barrett set the national record with her 6-foot-7-inch jump in the finals of the track Olympic trials last week qualifying her for team USA.
Along the way, Barrett added her second-straight NCAA championship, with a clearance of 6-foot-4-inches, winning 17 straight collegiate competitions in the process.
“My personal goals coming into college were to be one of the greatest high jumpers the world has ever seen,” Barrett said. “I understood that I had to win a national championship, I had to break the collegiate record, I had to win the professional national championship, and that I had to get to the Olympics. And now I have to win an Olympic gold medal.”
Now Barrett will represent Team USA in the 2012 London Olympics, and is one check mark away from completing her list of goals as an athlete with one more academic season of eligibility remaining.
“She was pretty much born to be a high jumper,” Blockburger said. “She wants to do acting, she wants to do track. She’s determined to not be derailed along the way.”