Barrett jumps to new heights
Olympian and Arizona high jumper shines on and off the track
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The arena was just beginning to bustle when the announcer made it known that the defending NCAA champion and Olympic silver medalist was about to take her opening high jump at the NCAA DI Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships.
What happened next was like theater.
As if a curtain had risen, the murmur in the crowd turned silent and 6-foot tall Brigetta Barrett, a senior from Arizona, stood facing the high jump, her upper body leaning back and her long legs making a giant triangle with the ground as she analyzed the horizontal bar laying 1.78m/5-10 off the ground in front of her.
There’s a certain presence about Barrett. She carries herself with an energy that simply draws attention, so it’s not a coincidence that she considers herself a natural entertainer and performer. Barrett, who in the fall became Arizona’s first black Homecoming queen, sang the national anthem at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl and an Arizona Diamondbacks game, to name a few of her performances.
“That’s my dream is to be a professional actress, performer,” she said. “I want to win an Oscar someday.”
But first comes the task of winning her fifth NCAA high jump championship after sweeping the indoor/outdoor titles in 2011 and 2012.
All of the high jumpers at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark. had more or less the same approach, but Barrett’s slow and deliberate steps stood out. And as she soared through the air, her back not even flirting with the bar beneath it, it was as if she was flying in slow motion.
Of course Barrett cleared her first height. And she cleared the next four on her first attempt too. Her day didn’t end until around one hour later when, having already secured the victory, she just couldn’t quite get over the collegiate record height of 1.99m/6-6 ¼.
“I wanted it bad,” she said with a big smile, but noting that she still got 10 points for her team. Her winning height was 1.95m/6-4 ¾.
That said, Barrett had a light indoor schedule and said she primarily competed at the indoor championships for the team competition. The jumper, who took six weeks off after the Olympics, expects to get her training back into full-gear for the outdoor schedule.
“I’m excited to train, I know that sounds weird,” she said, “just because I know what I feel like when I’m in top shape.”
In top shape, Barrett proved to be one of the best in the world last summer. After finishing second to U.S. record holder Chaunte Lowe at the U.S. Olympic Trials, she finished second only to Russia’s Anna Chicherova at the Olympic Games with a personal best of 2.03m/6-8. Coming up in 2013, Barrett will have an opportunity to defend her NCAA outdoor title and possibly compete at the world championships in Moscow in August.
In a way, Barrett’s journey through life is still just beginning. Born in New York, Barrett grew up in a single-mother household without a lot of money. When she realized in high school that she might have a future in track, she followed the opportunity to Texas, where she lived with her cousins and won two state championships.
Yet track has never been her sole focus in life. After the Olympics, Barrett had an opportunity to go pro but decided to finish her college career.
“After remembering why I wanted to come to college in general and why I did track, track was a means to college, that was the end,” she said. “So I wanted to finish what I started.”
And what she started was a degree in theater arts with minor in creative writing. That helps explain why, after winning another NCAA title, Barrett happily shared that she would celebrate by going back to her hotel and working on a book report.
“Track is something that I grew to love, but performing, I was born loving,” she said. “I never compare the two loves because love is love, if you know what I’m saying.”