'Cats to Fight for National Championship
March 11, 2010
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - This weekend's 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships represents more than a shot at a title for The University of Arizona track and field squads. When the UA competes at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark., it will represent a changing of the guard as much as anything.
Over the years, fans of Arizona track and field know the names: Liz Patterson for the women and Luis-Rivera-Morales on the men's side. When all is said and done with the 2010 season, the two seniors will represent two of the most prolific athletes in the school's history. Patterson is a national champion and two-time national runner-up while Rivera-Morales is an All-American and the only long jumper in UA history to have top-five marks in the long jump and triple jump both indoors and outdoors.
They will both be in action this weekend – Patterson in her final indoor meet and Rivera-Morales in his last collegiate meet period. However, they won't be alone in Arkansas, with a strong core of underclassmen complimenting them as both the No. 21 men's and No. 21 women's squads compete toward their first ever indoor national titles.
Patterson enters the meet as the top-ranked athlete in the high jump on the season with a mark of 1.92m (6-3 ½). At the 2008 outdoor championships, Patterson entered as an afterthought to favorite Sharon Day of Cal Poly-SLO and ended up winning a national title. Last year, she was perhaps a bigger underdog to Texas' Destinee Hooker and yet pushed her to the limits both indoors and ourdoors. Now, Patterson will be the favorite and the only expected challengers are Hawaii's Amber Kaufman and UA teammate, freshmen Brigetta Barrett.
For Rivera-Morales, the road is not as easy but the top six long jumpers in the country are all right next to each other as far as the seeds and any big jump could take home the title. Rivera-Morales set an all-time career best jump of (26-2 ¾) two weekends ago at the MPSF Championships in Seattle and will look to continue the momentum heading into this week.
On the flip side, four freshmen represent the bulk of the UA athletes in competition this weekend. The freshmen high jumping duo of Nick Ross and Edgar-Rivera Morales have been unstoppable this season with at least one of them winning every meet that they have been entered in – even tying once. They already hold the third best jump in UA history at 2.23m (7-3 ¾), a mark they set at the MPSF Championships as well.
The previously mentioned Barrett enters the high jump with the third best mark in the country at 1.89m (6-2 ¼) that she set in beating Patterson for the MPSF title. Julie Labonte continues the impressive tradition of throwers at the UA as she advanced in the shot put event.
Labonte, Edgar Rivera-Morales and Barrett represented the biggest haul from one team as far as freshmen champions at the MPSF meet.
The middle distance crew is also well represented for the Wildcats. Redshirt sophomore Abdi Hassan continues the trend of impressive youngsters as he enters the weekend with the eighth fastest time in the men's mile in the country with a time of 3:58.50.
On the women's side, redshirt junior Christina Rodgers bounced back nicely from missing last year with an injury as she will represent the 'Cats in the 800-meters, with the ninth best mark in the country.
In total, eight athletes with represent the UA this weekend. Events kick off tomorrow for the Arizona with Patterson and Barrett in the high jump final beginning at 2 p.m.