UA Olympians leap from obscurity to spotlight
TUCSON – Their faces are more recognizable now.
Tells you what a silver medal and meteoric rise to the Olympic Games can do for a pair of otherwise fairly obscure athletes.
Such is the case for University of Arizona track and field stars Brigetta Barrett and Georganne Moline, both starting their senior seasons at Wildcats.
"It's weird because I don't know how to react to it," said Barrett, fresh off a silver medal in the high jump in the recently completed Olympics in London. "This is the first time I don't know how to react to something. Usually, I'm pretty quick on my feet."
Light on them, too.
She and Moline will have to get used to it. Celebrity status usually reserved for the Arizona men's basketball team and a select few football players has been reached by Arizona's track and field's dynamic duo.
On Thursday night, the two were honored during halftime of UA's soccer match against Brigham Young, along with UA shot putter Julie Lebonte', who qualified for Canada's Olympic team. Shortly after, more than 100 autograph seekers lined up for their signatures.
Ever the saleswoman with a big smile, Barrett often asked her new fans if they were going to come back and see her during the spring track season. Of course, they all nodded yes.
Why not? It's a chance to see greatness as it develops.
Barrett's silver middle in the high jump, with a jump of 6 feet, 8 inches, best ever by a collegiate athlete, she became the first UA track and field athlete to win a medal since sprinter Michael Bates and hurdler Sandra Farmer-Patrick in 1992.
Moline, a rising star in her own right, finished fifth in the 400-meter hurdles, seemingly coming out of nowhere to even make the finals.
"It was an amazing experience," said Moline, a Phoenix native who tripped over a hurdle and crashed out of the semifinals at this year's NCAA Championships. "I met so many people from so many countries."
At 21 years old, she was the youngest finalist in the competition, finishing in a personal best 53.93. It was the fourth time this year she had exceeded her personal best in what turned out to be an amazing summer to remember.
"I knew I had it in me," she said. "I wasn't happy with my times because you never want to get content. 53.9? Not fast enough.""
Soon after finishing fifth, she had her sights on next year's World Championships in Russia. "I want gold," she said.
And, she's determined – real determined – to be the fastest in the world. She said it's a realistic goal, too. She sees a 52-second something in her future.
"There are so many things I can change. I can get stronger and faster," she said. "I was hurt earlier in the year so I am excited to do what I know I can do.
"I want to have the world record. I know it's a process - hopefully at the next Olympics. I know I can do it."
Barrett, too, is thinking about a future that includes Brazil in 2016.
Their are new heights to conquer and personal bests to break.
Barrett made lots of new fans with her surprise finish at London, her wide smile and endearing story of overcoming an impoverished childhood. Just recently she received a fan letter from Denmark.
"She sent me all this pictures of me competing, and I was like, ‘whoa," she said.
Barrett, a four-time NCAA high jump champion, said the London Games were enlightening in so many ways, in part because of all the support she got.
"There's no fire like having a whole nation being behind you," she said. "It definitely became real during the opening ceremonies. When the flag bearer went out and you see all these Americans lined up, you realize you're just part of a huge delegation.
And now, so is all the attention.