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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA track sets new high mark at NCAA championship

Kevin Brost
Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily Wildcat Kenyan cross country athlete and University of Arizona student Lawi Lalang poses with his Kenyan flag on October 25, 2011.

Arizona men’s track and field had four athletes compete at the indoor championships last weekend, all of whom put up big points, leading the Wildcats to a third-place finish. It was the best the team has ever done — the previous highest finish was 10th in 2006.

“It was one of those meets where, I don’t know if you could ask for a better performance from our guys,” head coach Fred Harvey said. “We came in with four guys and all four scored huge … it’s exciting because you want your best people to perform at a meet like this. It’s a great feeling, I’m proud of all the athletes and I’m excited for the University of Arizona.”

Sophomore Lawi Lalang added two more championships to his resume, bringing his NCAA career total to three after winning the cross-country title in the fall. Lalang dominated both the 5,000-meter race on the first day, clocking in at 13:25.11 and the 3,000-meter race on day two with a time of 7:46.64. The time was good enough to set a new meet and facility record.

“It was my plan to win this title and I did it,” Lalang said. “I am really happy. It was slow at first so I decided I would go for it since nobody else was taking it.”

Fellow distance runner senior Stephen Sambu helped put up major points coming in third overall. Junior high jumper Nick Ross took the least number of jumps on the event and was able to clear 2.23 meters and earn another NCAA Championship for the men’s team. Ross is the first-ever Wildcat to earn an NCAA high jump title.

“I knew that if I stayed mentally tough and hit some big jumps on my first attempts that I could put the pressure on a lot of guys and that’s what I did,” Ross said. “I’m not happy or content with what I jumped but a win is a win. A national championship, you can’t argue with that.”

The three women invited to the event concluded the weekend with an 11th-place finish. Junior shot put thrower Julie Labonte relinquished her title with a third-place finish on a throw of 17.68 meters. The third Wildcat, sophomore runner Elvin Kibet came in sixth in the 5k race. Junior high jumper Brigetta Barrett defended her title with a mark of 1.96 meters — good for a facility record.

“To me, a championship symbolizes my hard work paying off,” Barrett said. “It’s not really about anybody else at the end of the day. To know that the tears that I’ve cried, the sleep I’ve lost, and the pain that my body went through was worth something.”

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