Returning UA Olympians join 22 newcomers to T&F roster

The University of Arizona track & field team will have the best of both worlds going into a new season – a little seasoned, world-class talent to blend with a large influx of promising youngsters being added to the 2012-13 roster.

Fred Harvey‘s Wildcat program has been basking in the attention that media-rich international competition brought during the summer Olympics, as 23 students and coaches with ties to the Tucson school were in London for the Games.

Two that received a large share of the media attention, seniors Brigetta Barrett and Georganne Moline, are back to finish out their college careers in blue and red.  Barretta cleared a personal-best 6’8″ in London to win a silver medal in the women’s high jump, and Moline took fifth in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

Moline, a local product who graduated from Thunderbird High School in Phoenix, clocked a 53.92 in the event – a new school record and the third-best time in the history of the Pac-12.  It was the sixth time this year she has broken her own school record.

“The most important thing about her competition was the fact that this was the first national team she’s ever been on, and it happened to be the Olympics,” said Harvey, the Arizona head coach who is entering his 10th season in charge of the program.

“I don’t think people realize how special that is.  She has never been on a junior national team, a national team, or any of those things, and for her to come to the Olympic Games and run two personal bests and finish fifth in the world…you have to be excited about that.”

Harvey is no doubt just as excited to have Barrett back for another year.  Her 6’8″ mark is the best jump ever by a collegiate female in the high jump.  However, since it didn’t happen during the collegiate season, it won’t count as the collegiate record.

She should be able to rectify that slight during the 2013 competition.

The UofA program enjoyed a successful appearance at last year’s NCAA Track & Field Championships, when the men’s squad finished in seventh place and the women’s team came in at 19th place.

As this year’s team begins preparation for its march to the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments at year’s end, they will be looking for help from some of the 22 newcomers that include a number of state champions.

Some of the more prominent roster additions include Traci Hicks, who held the top time in the country last season for the 100-meter hurdles; Aaron Castle, the Washington state champion in the discus and shot put with a top-10 national ranking; Jordan Young, who competed in all three throwing events this summer at the World Junior Championships; and Jonathan Giess from Kansas, the 2012 Gatorade State Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year and state title holder in the high jump.

But the focus right now is on the cross country season.  The Cats’ women’s team finished in fifth place at the Pac-12 Championships last season, and the men came in eighth.

The crown jewel of the cross country program last year was Lawi Lalang, a freshman who ran his way to the individual national championship and will be back again this year to anchor the men’s team.

And this year, the runners will get increased exposure via the new Pac-12 network.  The Pac-12 Cross Country Championships will be the first conference championship to air on the new network.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)