High Jump

Vashti Cunningham wins U.S. women’s high jump title with help from father Randall Cunningham

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Vashti Cunningham claimed the women’s high jump title at the USATF Indoor Championships in Staten Island, New York on Saturday. Cunningham’s 1.96m clearance gave her the fourth title of her career.

Cunningham’s dad was in attendance, but not just as a parent. Football Hall of Famer Randall Cunningham is his daughter’s coach.

“We wanted to get in early and represent America,” Randall Cunningham said. “It’s always great coming to this meet, and we’re really happy with her.”

Cunningham’s title is even more of an accomplishment since the 21-year-old was coming back from strep throat.

She had a breakout season in 2016. Cunningham won her first U.S. title at indoors, signed with Nike and became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to qualify for the Olympics since 1980 when she earned a spot in the Rio Olympics at age 18.

Cunningham didn’t hesitate to discuss what Randall, who played in the NFL for 16 seasons, is like as a coach.

“We don’t negotiate,” she said. “He’s in charge. Sometimes, we talk about it, but really, he’s in charge. And I try to fall in line with his plan because I trust him, and I trust that he’s been through enough to lead me in the right way.”

Qatar’s Barshim sets season’s best high jump record in Birmingham

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Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, who astonished the track and field world with his non-traditional hurdling technique on his way to becoming the reigning world champion in high jump this August, one-upped himself in Birmingham when he soared over the bar set to 2.40 meters. That’s just a smidge over 7 feet, 10 inches!

The men’s outdoor high jump world record is currently 2.45m, set by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor in 1993.

At the 2017 Worlds, the 6-foot-2 Barshim cleared the bar at about 6 feet, 4 inches with his now famous feet-first maneuver.

At Birmingham’s Diamond League event his technique may have been conventional, but his final leap was no less breathtaking.

After trading jumps with Syria’s Majed Aldin Ghazal up to 2.35m, Ghazal decided to bow out, but the Qatari continued on. With the meet already won, Barshim raised the bar to 2.40m.

“I knew I had that jump in me but I needed that pressure on my shoulders,” Barshim said. “I love it here. I had the [meet] record here from 2014 and I also won in Birmingham last year so it is a lucky place for me.”

The 2.40m final jump for Barshim registered as a meet and season record. After climbing down off the landing pad, Barshim’s fellow jumping competitors mobbed him in celebration.

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Vashti Cunningham becomes youngest U.S. track and field Olympian in 36 years

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EUGENE, Ore. — Vashti Cunningham clinched a Rio Olympic berth in the high jump on Sunday and, at age 18, became the youngest U.S. Olympian in the sport since 1980.

Cunningham, the daughter of retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, finished second to Chaunté Lowe, a mother of three and veteran of three Olympic teams. Inika McPherson was third to round out the Olympic team.

“To be able to go to the Olympics, I’m more happy than disappointed about finishing second,” said Cunningham, who received tips from her father and coach during the competition and then a hug afterward. “I always want to win, but this is something that will hit me on the head and make me work harder. I’ve got more motivation for Rio.”

On March 20, Cunningham won the world indoor title in nearby Portland, clearing 1.96 meters to beat a field largely lacking top Olympic medal contenders. She turned professional and signed with Nike a day later.

Before Cunningham made the Rio team, the youngest U.S. track and field Olympian since 1980 was Allyson Felix, who was also 18 at the 2004 Athens Games, where she earned 200m silver.

In Rio, Cunningham could be a medal favorite. The best non-American clearance in the world this year is 1.99 meters by Poland’s Kamila Licwinko. Cunningham cleared 1.99 meters at the U.S. indoor championships on March 12. Lowe cleared 2.01 meters on Sunday.

Plus, the reigning Olympic and world champions are from Russia, whose track and field federation has been banned from Rio. Individual Russian athletes are expected to appeal for Olympic inclusion, though.

Cunningham’s older brother, also named Randall, is to compete in the men’s high jump at Trials on Friday and next Sunday. He is not favored to make the Olympic team.

“This is greater than anything I’ve ever done,” the retired quarterback told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “It’s always better when you’re seeing your kids doing it.”

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