In the first 24 hours of the London Olympics, ex-UA NCAA swimming champion Rob Abernethy, operations director of the aquatics venue, got to meet Queen Elizabeth.
About the only thing that can beat that for any of the 22 Tucson-connected athletes in London is to win a medal. Here's how it stacks up for the Super Six:
1. Andre Iguodala. Team USA's basketball powerhouse is one of the few locks for gold.
2. Matt Grevers. The Ford Aquatics superstar will be favored in the men's 100 backstroke.
3. Jill Camarena-Williams. On form, America's leading shot putter is expected to challenge for a bronze medal behind New Zealand's Valerie Adams and Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus.
4. Bernard Lagat. Oregon's Galen Rupp is the new American glamour name, slipping ahead of Lagat at 5,000 meters. But getting a medal of any kind is going to be wickedly difficult behind two Ethiopians and England's Mo Farah.
5. Brigetta Barrett. The Russians are clearly favored, in the high jump but Barrett and Team USA star Chaunte Lowe should be close.
6. Caitlin Leverenz. Getting to the finals of the 400 IM on Saturday - her "off" event - signals that the Sahuaro High grad has a realistic shot at a 200 IM bronze medal behind Australia's Stephanie Rice and China's Ye Shiwen.
One unfavorable development is that Camarena-Williams is struggling with a back injury.
"She has not been able to practice much," her coach, UA assistant Craig Carter, told me. "She had an MRI and injections in her back Thursday. We are hoping she can throw (soon).
"Her lifting is good, so she is strong, but any type of twisting is causing pain. If she can become pain-free, I still believe she can throw far enough to medal."
The women's shot put competition will be held Aug. 6.
Carter has a logistical issue in London. He coaches Camarena-Williams at an off-site track facility leased by USA Track and Field. He then must travel about an hour to get to the main Olympic village to work out with UA senior Julie Labonte, who is Canada's top shot putter.
Returning to Tucson
Thompson takes tour break to open junior tournament
After he completes his round today in the Canadian Open, Rincon/University grad Michael Thompson will take a week off from the PGA Tour and return to Tucson.
Thompson, runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Open, has established the Thompson Invitational, a statewide junior tournament for boys and girls 13-18 that will stage its inaugural event next Saturday and Sunday at Oro Valley Country Club. It is Thompson's way of giving back to the Ricki Rarick junior golf program and the state's JGAA, the formative golf organizations of his junior days.
His longtime swing coach, Susie Meyers, a former UA and LPGA golfer, and her husband, Dan, a former Arizona Amateur champion, are the forces behind the event that they hope will become the premier junior tournament in Arizona. More than 50 junior golfers have entered the inaugural Thompson Invitational.
So far this year, his second season on the PGA Tour, Thompson has earned $1,215,966 and is ranked No. 57 in the world golf ranking.
Word in UA athletic dept. is center Tarczewski is a 'force'
Although pre-Bahamas trip practices are closed to the public and UA coach Sean Miller is prohibited from speaking about them publicly, it doesn't take long to get a favorable impression of 7-foot freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski. I've asked three UA athletic department members with access to practice for their reaction. All three said, foremost, that Tarczewski is a force. I'm told Tarczewski is physical, aggressive and has the type of athletic skills - footwork and ball-handling/catching - that have escaped UA big men since Channing Frye departed in 2005. … About 40 UA donors/boosters will fly Aug. 8 to the Bahamas on commercial flights to watch the four-game exhibition series and the competitive introduction of Tarczewski, point guard Mark Lyons and power forward Grant Jerrett, among others. … The culmination of former UA Final Four forward Corey Williams' Tucson Summer Pro League will be held today at 3 p.m., at St. Gregory Prep. Over the course of the summer, former Palo Verde and University of Sioux Falls guard Ronnell Grant was probably the league's top player; he averaged 18.7 points. Santa Rita and Cochise College grad Mark Simmons, bound for St. Mary's of Texas on a basketball scholarship, averaged 15.4. UA senior Kevin Parrom averaged 27 points in two TSPL appearances and ex-Maryland and Santa Rita guard Terrell Stoglin scored 36 points in his lone outing. … Tucson High School has suffered a significant personnel loss: athletic director Will Kreamer, a 1971 all-state lineman and long-time coach and administrator in Tucson prep sports, announced his retirement this month.
More short stuff
Sabino football squad takes team-building trip to Pinetop
Sabino High football coach Jay Campos took the state title-hopeful Sabercats to Pinetop last week, hoping to bond and enhance the team's strength and conditioning before they open official practices Monday. Sabino and perennial contender Cienega will open the Tucson prep season Aug. 23, one of the year's top games. Campos is 60-14 his last six seasons at Sabino; Cienega's Nemer Hassey is 44-8 the last four years in Vail. … Entering Saturday's game against Helena, UA College World Series third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean was on a 13-game hitting streak, hitting .444 in that period (24 for 54) for the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League. Mejias-Brean went 5 for 5 against Orem last weekend and is hitting .397 overall, tops in the Pioneer League. Now that he has gone from the deep outfield at Hi Corbett Field and the dead-wood bats used in college baseball, Mejias-Brean has hit five homers; he hit one during his magical UA junior season. … The St. Louis Cardinals sent 13-2 UA pitcher Kurt Heyer to the Florida Gulf Coast League and have chosen not to pitch him competitively. Heyer, who threw a robust 153 innings at Arizona this season, is pitching periodically on the sideline for the Cardinals and might be used in relief several times before the minor-league season ends next month. … Fern Tonella, an all-star point guard who led Salpointe to the 1997 state championship game, lives in London and is employed by FactSet, a financial data and software company. After playing at Davidson, Tonella has been an international traveler and has applied for UK citizenship. His basketball genes have kicked in: He purchased 10 sets of tickets for the ongoing Olympic basketball competition in his new hometown. … After a standout basketball career at Salpointe, and later Portland U., Karlie Burris is returning to her home state. She was hired last week as an assistant coach on Sue Darling's first NAU staff. Burris had been a GA and video coordinator at Seattle U. for Joan Bonvicini the last two seasons.
Tucsonan Pothoff achieves No. 9 tennis rank for Girls 14
Tucsonan Maddie Pothoff has climbed to No. 9 in the USTA rankings for Girls 14 after one of the notable victories of her young tennis career. She won the Girls 14 Clay Court nationals doubles title last week in Plantation, Fla. Pothoff is coached by Ronnie Smith and John Perry of the Smith-Perry Tennis Academy at Reffkin Tennis Center. … Ten years after Tucsonan Pam Reed won the scorching Death Valley/Badwater Marathon, a 135-mile ultramarathon, she returned again this month and was No. 2 of all women competitors. It took her 31 hours 6 minutes. Now 51, the director of the Tucson Marathon won't be slowing down. She is scheduled to compete in Ironman competitions next month in New York and Canada. … UA women's golf coach Laura Ianello almost surely has assembled the nation's No. 1 recruiting class for 2012-13. She added Ohio State sophomore-to-be Kendall Prince, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, last week. Ianello already had signed Alabama's Janie Jackson and Canadian Anna Kim, both considered top 20 recruits. Prince had a scoring average of 74.4 at Ohio State this year; she left in part because she wanted to play in more golf-appropriate weather in Tucson. Prince qualified for next month's U.S. Women's Amateur. Combined with All-Pac-12 first-team sophomore-to-be Manon Gidali, the Wildcats project as a national title contender for the next few years. … New UA men's golf coach Jim Anderson has been a recruiting dynamo since his hiring last month. He has evaluated prospects in New Hampshire, Texas, Idaho and California and will fly to Europe to recruit the world's top junior amateurs next month.
My two cents
Hiring Blair a quality move for Arizona softball coach Candrea
Mark Blair has been one of Arizona's top softball pitching coaches for more than a decade, helping to develop Flowing Wells state championship pitchers Leigh Ann Walker and Desiree Williams, and later, Pima College all-stars such as Mari Contreras, Yvette Alvarez and Jordan Trujillo.
In his younger days, Blair was a national-level fastpitch pitcher, who, at 60, still throws a mean batting practice at PCC at a speed as good, or greater, than those the Aztecs faced.
Absorbing Blair's coaching excellence from afar, Arizona's Mike Candrea was impressed. And so while rebuilding his coaching staff, Candrea has now added Blair to help new pitching coach Alicia Hollowell in one of the better (if more subtle) transactions of the NCAA softball offseason.
College softball has never been more competitive than it is in 2012. Adding Blair to a staff of Hollowell and Stacy Iveson gives UA softball a freshness and edge it hasn't enjoyed for years.