The Will to Rise

April 30, 2012

“The thing that’s different about me is that I’m not afraid to fall,” says junior Brigetta 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.”

And Barrett understands the importance of letting go of fear and taking on challenge. With her theatre arts major and creative writing minor, she understands thinking outside the box. She maintains a near 4.0 grade point average.

It also looks like she’s bound for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Born to High Jump

According to, Sheldon Blockburger, assistant track and field coach, Barrett is truly gifted. “She was born to high jump,” he says. “She’s tall, very slender, very strong, and her mental focus is above normal and she really believes in herself and she’s very motivated right now to get to London and prove herself.”

Barrett was impressed with Blockburger, as well, from the moment they met, when he paid her a recruiting visit in Dallas, Texas. Her coach there had a photo on his wall of her sailing high over the bar. Everyone else who saw that picture remarked on the amazing height she’d achieved.

Blockburger saw her incredible talent, but he also took note of much, much more.

“We’d love to have you, but you clearly need a lot of work,” she remembers him saying as they looked at the photo. “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 Blockburger could see the entire jump in his mind by just looking at that one snapshot in time. It was at that moment that she knew she needed to train with him so she could reach her goal of qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field team. “I’ve been blessed with a coach who believes in my dreams just as much as I do,” she says.

Facing Fear

Barrett knew she wanted to go to the University of Arizona even before she met Blockburger, citing its world-class Theatre Program in the School of Theatre, Film and Television. She was excited that greats like Craig T. Nelson and Jerry Bruckheimer were counted among the university’s alumni.

“She said we were first on her list for acting,” Blockburger remembers. “I told her I actually knew something about the high jump, too, so it worked out well.”

Barrett says that the only thing that scares her is acting, but that’s what draws her to the stage.

“I remember the first time had to do a monologue in front of a group, and I was shaking,” she remembers. “I hadn’t even gotten on the stage yet. I was shaking walking up there.”

But she has soared over that obstacle, too. Last year, Barrett produced her first play, “Stay It Out Loud.” She is proud that it was the UA’s first play for Black History Month produced through the Theatre Program.

Track and field director Fred Harvey has also been proud and impressed with Barrett from day one.

“We do a lot of personal interviewing with our student athletes prior to their coming to the University of Arizona,” he explains. “We need people that are going to buy into the commitment of being both a student athlete and understanding the levels they are going to have to commit to. One thing that really, really stands out with Briggetta is she can compartmentalize very well. She can say to herself, ‘This is the task I need to do today. What I did yesterday doesn’t matter. What I’m doing now is the only thing that matters. Tomorrow is not a given, so I need to focus here.’”

The other students see how hard she works on the field, and how hard she works in the classroom – and on the stage – says Harvey, which makes her an outstanding leader on the team. He says Barrett is carrying on a long tradition of champions in the high jump.

“Without exaggeration, we have the best high jumping tradition in the history of the NCAA,” says Harvey. “We’re the only school that has taken three athletes to the national championships and gone one, two, three.” He believes Barrett has everything it takes to make it to the Olympics and win. (He also promises to build a special case for her medal in the McKale Center Hall of Champions.)

The Support to Soar

“There’s no way I can’t believe in myself with this much support,” says Barrett. “I’m very honored to wear that A on my chest, whether I go to class when I’m at a competition,” she says. “I’m really glad I made the decision to come to the University of Arizona, because we’re not just a team, we’re a family. We’re not just a sports team, we’re a university. We’re not just a university, we’re a community. No one’s alone.”

Learn more about the UA Cross Country/Track & Field program.