UA, ASU finish NCAA track championships with nat’l titles

Both of Arizona’s Pac-10 representatives left their mark on the just-completed outdoor portion of the track & field scene this year, with the Arizona Wildcats breaking a state record.

The Cats finished in fifth place (35 pts) in the women’s competition, the third-best NCAA mark in school history, and the men’s team brought home a seventh-place (28 pts) finish, its best in five years.

That’s the highest overall finish for both teams from the same school in one season, setting an Arizona record.  And it was only the second time that both Arizona teams finished in the top 10 in the same season.

But Texas A&M continues to be the power in college outdoor track and field, winning both the men’s (55 pts) and women’s (49 pts) titles – again.  Each team has won three consecutive titles.

Two national champions returned to the Tucson campus from Des Moines, Iowa.  Brigetta Barrett won her second national title in the women’s high jump, following on the heels of her indoor title earlier in the year, and Julie Labonte pocketed her second national title in the shot put.  Labonte also won the indoor title in the event.

Barrett cleared 6’2 1/4″ before missing on her final jump, while Labonte capped a perfect season with a heave of 18.32 meters, the eighth-best throw in NCAA history.  Both women are sophomores; LaBonte is ranked No. 20 in the nation in the shot.

In all, Arizona placed 10 first-team All-Americans.  And that’s also a first in the history of the Wildcat program.

The other top-five individual finishers for Arizona included Lawi Lalang, who had a second place in the 5,000 meters; Abdi Hassas, who finished the 1,500-meter run in third; Stephen Sambu, with a third place in the 10,000-meter run; and LaTisha Holden, with a fourth in the women’s 100-meter hurdles.

Holden competed in four events at the Championships, but her time of 12.89 in the 100 hurdles, the best she has ever run, earned the senior her first All-America honor.

And Holden’s victory was the first time the Arizona program has had an All-American in that event.

For Arizona State, it was Darius Terry who filled a void in one of the events.  The transfer from Northern Arizona University finished 10th overall in the men’s 1,500-meter run to earn the program’s first All-America honor in that event.

With that honor in the 1,500 meters, ASU has closed the loop and now can claim having placed an All-American in every track & field event.

The Sun Devils also picked up another individual title with Jordan Clarke‘s win in the shot put, making it three consecutive years that ASU has claimed the national crown in that event.

ASU has enjoyed a long reign in the shot put, winning the event six out of the last eight NCAA meets.  Ryan Whiting won five of those prior to this year, including the last two.

Clarke actually had two throws good enough to win the event, but his final toss of 64’09 3/4″ claimed the title – and also put him in fifth place on the all-time ASU list for the event.

ASU collected nine All-America honors, including four first-team honors.  The women finished 19th overall (15 pts) and the men closed out in a tie for 25th (10 pts).

Each school will also send a select few athletes to the USATF Outdoor Championships June 23-26 in Eugene, Ore.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)