DES MOINES, Iowa — Arizona got competition under way Wednesday at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, with the women’s squad finishing the day with 10 points and a share of the lead in the team competition.
The only two Wildcats in competition on Wednesday – competing in the very first and very last events of the day – made sure not to disappoint as both student-athletes earned All-America honors for the first time in their careers.
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Freshman Baillie Gibson got the ball rolling for Arizona in the women’s discus – the first event of the competition. Gibson had the eighth-best throw during the opening round of throws to qualify into the finals, but set three consecutive personal records over her final three attempts to finish fifth overall with a final personal record of 56.46m (185-3).
The throw was the fourth-best mark in Arizona history in the event and the best throw since Rachel Varner’s mark of 57.93m (190-1) in 2004. Gibson began the championship season ranked 15th in the country, certainly making her first-ever All-America award an improvement over the form chart predictions. The mark also earned four valuable points towards the UA women’s team total.
In the final event of the day, sophomore Jennifer Bergman used the model for success she had used all season in the 10,000 meters and rode that game plan to a third-place finish in Wednesday’s final. Bergman rode the back of the lead pack for the entirety of the race, picking off other runners in a methodical one-by-one fashion and then using her kick down the stretch to finish in 34:31.69 for the first All-America honor of her career.
It was the first time an Arizona distance runner had earned an All-America accolade since Tara Chaplin took ninth at the 1999 NCAA Championships in the 10,000 meters and the first time a distance runner had scored a point since Amy Skieresz won the 5,000 and 10,000 meter crowns in 1998. ‘
Bergman and Gibson totaled 10 points towards Arizona’s team total, putting the Wildcats in a five-way tie after one day of events with Arizona State, Duke, Northwestern State and Southern Mississippi.