UA track teams enjoying best outdoor season in years

The University of Arizona women’s track team has been methodically working its way up the national rankings since the outdoor season started in mid-March.  They have moved up exactly one spot in each of the weekly computer rankings.

This week, the women’s team finds itself in the No. 8 spot after coming off a hugely successful weekend at the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays in California.

And, while the women slowly work their way up the ladder, the men just skyrocketed into the top 25 outdoor rankings for the first time this season. The men jumped 10 positions in one week to No. 16.

The Wildcats’ outdoor season, in general, is turning into one of its best.  Both teams are as competitive as they have been in a decade.

The women’s computer ranking is the highest for the program since the rankings began to be used four years ago, and the men are ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2009 when they finished 23rd in the NCAA Outdoor Championships; they finished 13th at the indoor championships last month.

Arizona has sought out events with tough competition this year, as both squads come off the Mt. SAC Relays and, the week before, were in Austin, Tex., to test themselves at the Texas Relays.  Both events feature a field of the nation’s top college athletes, as well competitors from professional and international competition.

At the Mt. SAC Relays, 21 of Arizona’s women athletes reached new personal bests, as Brigetta Barrett, a sophomore from Texas, set a nation’s-best mark of 6′ 2 3/4″ in the high jump.

Also impressive, on the men’s side, was the performance of Edgar Rivera-Morales in the high jump.  The sophomore set the best mark of his career, and the second-best in school history, with a jump of 7′ 5 3/4″.  It also tied the best NCAA mark this season in the outdoors.

Barrett joined with Lawi Lalang on the men’s team to earn Pac-10 Athlete of the Week honors.  Lalang came in a split-second behind teammate, Stephen Sambu, in the 5,000-meter run, but set a new school freshman record of 13:34.62 – shaving more than 11 seconds off the old mark

Sambu, a junior college transfer last year, finished first and ran the fastest 5,000-meter time in the country in the Elite Invite section of the Mt. SAC, finishing in 13:34.19 to also post the second-fastest time in school history.

Sambu and Lalang now hold the No. 1 and No. 2 fastest times in that event in the NCAA this season.

And it was another freshman who stole the show in the field events.

Baillie Gibson from Casper, Wyo., broke a 26-year-old freshman record in the women’s shot put with a throw of 56 feet even.  She is part of a strong Arizona contingent in women’s field events, the third Wildcat thrower to go over 17 meters this season.

A small group will represent Arizona at meets at BYU and the Triton Invitational in California this weekend.  But most of the team will use the weekend to unwind before next weekend’s dual meet in Tempe with Arizona State and Northern Arizona.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)