Arizona’s coaches are looking to use the Wildcats’ home-field advantage to offer extra motivation for their athletes at the Pac-12 track and field championships this weekend at Drachman Stadium.
High jumper Justice Summerset is the perfect person to stir up the crowd.
Wildcats coach Fred Harvey is challenging his men’s team to finish in the championship’s top three spots, a tough assignment in one of the nation’s strongest track conferences. He’s counting on Summerset and Justin Lewis for big points. In the women’s competition, Arizona has three high jumpers who could finish in the event’s top tier.
At the Wildcats’ last home meet, Summerset began a rhythmic clapping action as he prepared to approach the high jump pit. The clapping was quickly picked up and amplified by the crowd.
Summerset ran up to the pit, took off and leaped over the bar at 7 feet, 4½ inches. It was the best jump ever for the Tucsonan, who earned All-America status two years ago as a freshman but then fell into a slump last year.
Jumps coach Sheldon Blockburger said Summerset looked focused and motivated in the Desert Heat meet two weeks ago.
“Justice needs to get mad and fired up and get the crowd into it,” said Blockburger.
Summerset’s jump placed him first among Pac-12 high jumpers. He will have to be at the top of his game Saturday evening because USC’s Earnie Sears has a leap just one-quarter inch below UA’s Mountain View High School graduate.
Lewis’ jump of 7¼ ranks sixth in the conference. The transfer student, who was a Division III high jump champion, is looking strong in practice, Blockburger said. Lewis and the other high jumpers are training under both Blockburger and volunteer assistant coach Bob Myers.
Blockburger and Myers are both widely respected nationally as high jump coaches. Blockburger helped develop Wildcats high jumper Nick Ross, the school’s record holder and an All-American, and Brigetta Barret, an Olympic silver medalist.
Myers is retired, but he coached a half-dozen female All-American high jumpers — including onetime school record-setter Tanya Hughes — between 1978 to 1992.
“Bob’s been doing a great job” with our high jumpers, Blockburger said.
Summerset echoed that sentiment. Using mental imagery during simulated meet jumps is paying dividends: “Imagine this is your last attempt to win the Pac-12 championship.”
The women’s team is bolstered by junior Karla Teran and freshmen Alexa Porpaczy and Diana Ramos. The three are tied for the third spot in the conference with jumps of 5-9¾.
“Karla has had her best practices in the last couple of weeks,” Blockburger said. “If she jumps in the meet like she’s practiced, she should win.
Alexa and Diana have been a little inconsistent this year, but if they are on their game on Sunday, I would not be shocked if they go 5-10 or 5-11.”
All three jumpers are expected to be strong contenders in 2020 for their national Olympic teams. Teran is from Mexico, Porpaczy is from Canada and Ramos is from Venezuela.
Meet tickets will be available at Drachman Stadium during the event and on ArizonaWildcats.com.