Arizona colleges show well at NCAA track championships

Head coach Fred Harvey pointed out over the weekend that his goal for both of the University of Arizona track teams is to always finish in the top 20 at the national championships.

They made it this year, but just barely.

The men’s team, ranked No. 3 in the nation entering this weekend’s NCAA Outdoor Championships, accumulated 27 points for a seventh-place finish.  The No. 10 women finished in 19th place with 15 points.

Down the road in Tempe, the state’s other Pac-12 program brought home a couple of top-25 finishes.  The Arizona State men, who won the national title just four years ago, scored 18 points to finish this year in 16th place, while the women’s 13 points was good enough for 24th place.

The highlight of the event for the Devils had to be their continued domination in the men’s shot put, where Jordan Clarke won his second consecutive outdoor title to go with his indoor title this year to make it three straight overall.

Ryan Whiting won back-to-back outdoor titles for ASU in 2009 and 2010 before Clarke, a redshirt junior from Alaska, stepped into the circle to take over in 2011.  With this win, Clarke became the 15th thrower in NCAA history since 1921 to win back-to-back outdoor shot put titles.

The Wildcats, too, had a repeat champion, as Brigetta Barrett cleared 6’4″ in the women’s high jump to defend last year’s title, when she went 6’1″ for the win.

“This is the most consistent I have ever been in my life, constantly growing and being able to see my growth,” said the junior from New York.  “So 6’4″ is a really good way to end the year for NCAA’s and a really good pace for the Olympic Trials.”  The trials are just weeks away, beginning on June 22 and running through July 1.

Barrett now has four NCAA championships during her career at Arizona and her title is the seventh outdoor title for the school in the women’s high jump.

Arizona’s 4×400 relay team brought back a sixth-place finish and All-America honors.  The foursome of Shapri Romero, Echos Blevins, Tamara Pridgett, and Georganne Moline clocked a time of 3:31.55.  During the season, the squad won the Pac-12 championships in the event and set a new school record earlier in the NCAA championships with a time of 3:31.06, also the second-fastest time in program history.

The Cats also had a couple of 11th-place finishes, courtesy of the sophomore class, in the distance events.  Lawi Lalang won the men’s 1,500-meter race in a time of 3:46.82 and Elvin Kibet clocked a time of 16:39.72 in the women’s 5,000-meter race.

And Tyler Johnson, a junior from Nevada, picked up an eight-place finish in the men’s hammer throw with a toss of 209’7″.

Arizona State had its share of top-10 finishers, almost all coming in the field events.  They were led by Anna Jelmini, the runner-up in the women’s discus, and Derick Hinch, who finished third in the men’s pole vault.

Also for the men, Chris Benard took seventh in the triple jump and Jordan Clarke finished 10th in the hammer throw.  Joining Jelmini on the women’s side were Keia Pinnick, who scored 5,671 points to finish fifth in the heptathlon, and Christabel Nettey with an 8th place in the long jump.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)