Raising the Bar On and Off the FieldPosted on: November 16, 2012
For UA junior Brigetta Barrett, raising the bar isn’t just a figure of speech — it’s something she’s done year after year as a competitive high jumper. This summer, those years of hard work culminated in the span of a few dramatic seconds at the Olympic Games in London when Barrett soared 6’8” in the air, achieving a new personal best and earning her and the United States an Olympic silver medal.
Barrett is among 113 UA athletes who have appeared in Olympic competitions over the years, and Wildcats have claimed at least one medal in every Olympiad since 1968. Barrett’s win was one of five medals earned by current or former UA athletes in the 2012 Olympic Games, boosting Arizona’s total medal wins to 63.
But Barrett isn’t just raising the bar in track and field. She’s also raising it on the stage: Last year she headed up production of “Say It Loud,” marking the first time that UA Theatre Arts had produced a play for Black History Month. In fact, while most of us might go fetal at the thought of competing in front of millions of Olympics viewers, Barrett says its theatre that makes her heart pound.
“I remember the first time had to do a monologue in front of a group, and I was shaking,” she says. “I hadn’t even gotten on the stage yet. I was shaking walking up there.”
Bringing Her A Game
Fortunately, that fear hasn’t kept Barrett from her passion. She maintains nearly a straight-A grade point average as a theater major minoring in creative writing, and it was the School of Theatre, Film & Television that first drew attention her to the UA. It was the high jump, however, that ultimately brought Barrett to campus — or, to be more precise, it was UA Assistant Track and Field Coach Sheldon Blockburger.
Barrett was impressed from her first meeting with Blockburger, who looked at a photo of her sailing over a high-jump bar — a photo that had elicited only oohs and ahhs from others — and told her candidly, “We’d love to have you, but you clearly need a lot of work. You’re on the wrong side of the bar, you can tell you have no knee drive, you’re not getting good rotation.”
Barrett was impressed that from just that frozen moment in time, Blockburger could see the course of the entire jump in his mind, and while another athlete might have been turned off by someone who looked at her best performance and focused first on room for improvement, for Barrett, it was at that moment she knew she needed to train with Blockburger to reach her goal of qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field team.
Giving the Most Important Gift
“The thing that’s different about me is that I’m not afraid to fall,” says Barrett. “I’m okay with the idea of falling because I’m aware you need to fall in order to rise… Whenever you’re afraid of failure, it limits your ability to 100 percent go after success.”
Having given that 100 percent at the London Summer Games, Barrett says her focus now is “to work as hard as possible to keep my grades up and prepare for my life post college.” What that life will hold remains to be seen, but she knows it will include an opportunity to share something even more precious than Olympic silver. “I’ve reached a point in my life where I can give what someone once gave me,” Barrett explains, “and that is the gift of inspiration.”