Prize Recruit — Ariel Pedigo

The versatile Pedigo was not only our No. 1 All-America in the heptathlon, but also earned a No. 3 in the high jump. (BRYAN WAYNE)

NEW FROSH ON CAMPUS at Oklahoma Ariel Pedigo — a double ’21 T&FN All-America, No. 1 in the heptathlon, No. 3 in the high jump — should give a big boost to third-year coach Tim Langford’s stated mission to “recruit and develop student-athletes in our program that will make a significant impact in the Big 12 Conference and on the national level.”

At Parkview Baptist High (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) Pedigo led the hept list at 5493 (=No. 7 all-time) in winning the AAU JO title and claimed 7-event victory at the high-profile NSAF/Nike meet in Eugene during which she also placed 2nd in the high jump.

Yet track seasons often roll off early year success, and Pedigo — whose older brother Tzuriel is LSU’s ’21 NCAA javelin champion — says “I would have to say that what started it all was definitely the indoor adidas nationals when I really realized how high up I am.”

At the 3-stripe-sponsored championships in Virginia Beach in February, Pedigo won the high jump at 5-10, a setting at which she became consistent all season.

Pedigo says, “The first time winning nationally, it really does something. You realize how much you’ve grown as an athlete.”

Sparkling progress followed in other events. Pedigo long jumped over 19-0 five times, including a 19-9¾ leap in April. In the JO hept she threw 143-10 in the javelin.

Jerel Langley, Oklahoma’s coach for the multis and vertical jumps, liked the picture. “What I saw in Ariel’s progression very early in her senior season,” Langley says, “was someone that was figuring out quite a few events. It was very evident that her strength lay in the field events, but seeing her hurdle time start to drop [she raced 14.40 during a hept in June] was what really caught my attention in terms of combined-event athlete.

“It was evident she was starting to grow into what could be a great heptathlete and I knew we had to contact her quickly before everyone in the country saw it coming too.”

Naturally, Pedigo — whose father David arranged for coaching from vaunted mentors across a wide expanse of territory from Alabama to Houston and College Station in Texas — had other college offers. OU’s pitch reached her head and her heart.

“When I finally did an online visit with [Oklahoma] and got to see all their facilities and got to talk and got to know the coaches more,” Pedigo says, “I really liked coach Langford for his personality and I really liked coach Langley.

“Just talking with them and, realizing how much they really do take care of their athletes and how much they cared about the athletes here — as far as the amount of support. They have sports psychologists here and trainers to help with not only the physical wellness, but the mental wellness of athletes. And the facilities: getting to see out of all the schools this was the only school that had an indoor track.”

Now that she’s settled in Norman, Pedigo says, “I honestly really love it. Having teammates, you know, I’m not really used to that.”

Her new Sooner multis training partners have quality credentials. Senior Madison Langley-Walker has scored 5305 and qualified for the ’21 NCAA and OT in the 400H.

The other OU frosh prize is Estonian Pippi Lotta Enok, who over the summer scored 5746 in Nairobi for silver at the World Juniors.

Says Langley, “I was just talking to Ariel and Pippi after practice the other day and was joking about how they seem very yin and yang. Ariel seems more easygoing and Pippi more structured. While Pippi may have a more tough exterior — that’s the Estonian in her — when you get to know her she is an incredibly nice person and has a pretty good sense of humor that I enjoy!

“In certain events,” Langley continues citing sprint mechanics for the 200 as a particular point of emphasis for Pedigo right now, “they are very similar in terms of PR, but of course have their different technical flaws. In other events there may be more of a gap, but they work well together. They have a great understanding of where they are as individuals and never get too caught up with what the other is doing or may be progressing faster in.”

Looking to her first meet, most likely in January, Pedigo says, “I feel like in the weight room I’m improving a lot. And my sprinting technique, we’ve been working a lot. Coach Langley has been helping me tweak with that a lot. It’s just saying little things where I feel a lot better in my events. I feel a lot better running now just from these little tweaks he’s made. I could feel myself improving.

“Then we had shot put one day last week. I was throwing close to the 13-meter line [42-8, well beyond her 40-3¼ competition best]. So that’s really exciting to see how much I’ve improved just from these little tweaks he’s making with my technique.”