High jumper Brigetta Barrett set for full weekend

Updated: May 24, 2013, 4:07 AM ET
Associated Press

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AP Sports Writer

High jumper Brigetta Barrett is finishing her career at Arizona on quite a few high notes.

From singing the national anthem at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl to capturing 24 straight NCAA meets, the theater arts major is simply a compelling performer no matter what the stage.

Barrett also acts, produces plays and writes poetry, too.

"She should have her own reality show, because I think it would be a hit," Wildcats jumps coach Sheldon Blockburger said. "She's a one-person show."

This weekend, the Olympic silver medalist will take that "one-person show" to Broadway.

In the vicinity, anyway.

Barrett will compete at an NCAA West regional meet on Friday in Austin, Texas, before jetting to New York to take part in the Adidas Grand Prix the next day.

That just sounds exhausting.

"Can't wait," the 22-year-old senior said. "It's going to be fun."

Barrett probably only jumps once in Austin -- enough to qualify and advance -- before bolting for the Big Apple. Her airplane lands two hours before the Grand Prix meet.

Plenty of time to work her way through New York City traffic.

"We're hoping to make it work," said Blockburger, who will accompany her on the trip. "Because, we're going for the win on Saturday."

Lately, win is all she does.

Barrett is in a league of her own on the collegiate level. She's won three straight indoor titles for the Wildcats and is in the process of trying to secure her third outdoor crown.

After the NCAA championships in June, it's on to a pro career, where she will attempt to reign on the world's stage.

"Dominating has its fun," said Barrett, who's from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., and went to high school in Duncanville, Texas. "But I'm really attracted to the process of having to prove myself. I have to prove my ability to dominate and reduplicate performances and perform at the highest level in the midst of the world's best.

"But I know I'm just as good."

Her upcoming ambition is simple -- become the first female high jumper to clear 7 feet. That's quite a feat, though, considering the world record is 6-10 1/4, a mark that Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria set more than 25 years ago.

"I have to put it out there, because then it forces me to live up to that and to believe in that," Barrett said. "I compete in my sport as if I'm going to break the world record.

"It's not untouchable. I'm excited it's stood so long. It will mean that much more."

Barrett has already broken one mark, clearing 6-6 1/4 at the Pac-12 Championships on May 11 to eclipse an NCAA record that was shared by Amy Acuff (UCLA), Destinee Hooker (Texas) and Kajsa Bergqvist (SMU).

Not that she was all that surprised. Barrett jumped higher at the London Olympics (6-8), but that, of course, wasn't during an NCAA meet.

Speaking of London, Barrett was remarkably calm at the Summer Games, feeling no pressure as she earned the first U.S. medal in that event since 1988.

Well, maybe a tiny bit -- after the competition anyway.

On her celebration lap, she couldn't find her mom in the stands. She greatly wanted to share the moment with her, given all her mom has gone through while battling breast cancer.

Finally, Barrett spotted her near -- where else -- the high jump area.

"Seeing her after winning that medal, it's a very indescribable feeling," Barrett said. "It just meant so much to me."

Barrett may have been calm and collected on the Olympic stage, but not so much at the Fiesta Bowl. Now that was intimidating, especially considering she's never belted out the national anthem in front of a national television audience.

Of course, she hit every note perfectly.

"I like moments like that. I like the nervous feeling," she said. "It kind of tells you what kind of person you are -will you freak out or perform?"

Down the road, she could see herself being a singer, or possibly an actor.

For now, her coach prefers that she pursue soaring over singing.

"There are 10,000 people who want to be great singers. But there are only two or three women who are great jumpers in the world -- and she's definitely one of the top high jumpers in the world," Blockburger said.

Not that long after her Olympics glory, Barrett fell into a bit of a funk.

With that medal, came demands. And with those demands, came a feeling of depression. She felt so overwhelmed at times by all the pressure that she contemplated taking a break from high jumping to clear her mind.

"I think with so many things going on, it hit me a lot harder than it ever has in my life," Barrett said. "The faster I get spun around, the more I'm trying to hold on. I didn't have control over it."

That's when she turned to her other talent, writing. When her mood turned melancholy, poetry lifted her spirits.

"Words can make us immortal," said Barrett, who plans on publishing a book of poems one day. "It's my fingerprint on this world."

Along with her high jumping marks. And her singing. And the school play she recently produced.

And ...

"She just needs to have her own camera following her around, because the way she goes through life is amazing," Blockburger said. "We could call it, `The world according to Brigetta.' It's definitely different than everyone else's world.

"But that's what makes her so fun to be around."

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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