Until they squeezed into a booth at the Cheesecake Factory last fall, the only place Nick Ross and James Frazier had ever met was in the UA's track and field media guide.
Separated by a few inches in a restaurant and by 31 years in the record book, Ross and Frazier share the school's indoor high jump record at 7 feet 4 3/4 inches.
The purpose of their introduction wasn't to talk about high-jumping records - Frazier's 1980 outdoor leap of 7-6 remains one of the UA's most elusive records in any sport - but to help Noel Frazier, James' 17-year-old son, a senior at California High School in San Ramon, Calif., decide if he wants to become an Arizona Wildcat and join the pursuit of his father's record.
"I feel honored that my record has held up for over 30 years," James Frazier told me in an email. "There are not very many record holders that can make that claim. It's just a matter of time until it is broken.
"On another note, I have a son who is a high jumper interested in attending Arizona. He is much better than I was. If the record should fall, maybe we can get it back in the family someday."
It's likely that if/when Noel Frazier becomes a Wildcat, he'll not be chasing his father's records, but those of Arizona junior Nick Ross. Or those of UA junior All-American Edgar Rivera-Morales, a favorite to win the Mexican national championship and be part of the London Olympics.
Arizona doesn't need to manufacture any recruiting hype. It is High Jump U.
When Ross and junior teammate Brigetta Barrett swept the NCAA Indoor high jump championships two weeks ago, it gave the Wildcats 12 national championships (men and women, indoor and outdoor) dating to 1982.
In addition, since 1967, when Olympian Ed Caruthers became the first Wildcat to clear 7 feet and finish No. 2 at the NCAA finals, Arizona has had eight No. 2 finishes at the NCAAs.
Indeed, at the start of the three-day Jim Click Shootout on Thursday morning at Drachman Stadium, Ross and Barrett stood next to former Arizona national champion high jumper Liz Patterson.
"There's a lot of talent around here; I can't imagine a better environment in which to train," said Ross. "One day you've got Bernard Lagat on the track, today you've got Liz, Brigetta and (two-time NCAA decathlon champ) Jake Arnold out there."
And now Nick Ross.
Two weeks ago, Ross did something Frazier did not do during his distinguished days as an Arizona Wildcat: Ross won an NCAA championship, beating All-Americans Erik Kynard of Kansas State and Ricky Robertson of Ole Miss at the NCAA indoor championships.
Even though Ross won the 2011 Pac-10 outdoor championship and was third at the NCAA finals a few weeks later, his victory in the indoor meet puts him in a new light. He got a Facebook message from Kynard, the defending NCAA outdoor champion and a member of the 2011 USA national team.
"He congratulated me," said Ross. "He told me 'you have to pay for this' and that he was looking forward to seeing me at the nationals in June."
Ross hasn't always been as feared and respected.
When he won back-to-back state championships at Vista Murrieta (Calif.) High School, he wasn't a recruiting priority of either nearby USC or UCLA. His best offers came from faraway Kentucky and Louisville, and from UA jumps coach Sheldon Blockburger, who was the first college coach to contact Ross.
"I didn't know what to do when I got Arizona's letter," Ross remembers. "It sort of blew over and I began looking at other schools. But I ultimately got back to Sheldon; I emailed him. He called me the same day. I was literally in Tucson two days later."
Ross cleared 7-3 while at Vista Murrieta. He believes he has a jump of 7-6 (tying Frazier's record) in him this season. If he goes that high, he'll be in the mix among those in contention for the U.S. Olympic team at the June trials.
"I'm not even close to hitting my peak," he said. "My goal next year is 7-8. I'm pretty confident I can get to the elite heights. I know my limits; I'm just getting started."
UA head track and field coach Fred Harvey refers to Ross as modest and popular among his teammates. He is affable, a good student, on track to graduate in four years, a would-be coach and teacher when his high-jumping days are complete.
Ross got a bit choked up when he stood on the podium at the NCAA meet.
"More than anything it made me feel proud," he said. "I had kept telling myself I was going to do this and all the hard work was going to pay off - and it did."