Vashti Cunningham showcased why she’s the best women’s high jumper in the country in May when she leaped a personal best of 6 feet, 7½ inches at the Chula Vista Field Fest. Days leading up to the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, Cunningham envisioned jumping a new personal record.
Cunningham didn’t eclipse her personal best, but a gold medal and trip to Tokyo is a more than worthy consolation prize. The 23-year-old won the women’s high jump at 6-5 to qualify for her second Olympics.
“The final was very exciting for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it days leading up to it. I was so ready to be there,” Cunningham said. “I didn’t quite jump the height that I wanted to, but I was just happy to go through (and) to win my first trials title.”
At the 2016 trials, the then 18-year-old Cunningham finished second. Five years later, she was the only high jumper to clear 6-5.
Inika McPherson was second followed by Nicole Greene. Both had jumps of 6-4, but McPherson cleared it on her first attempt.
“This meet right here meant a lot to me. I really, really wanted the title in 2016 but I was young and just trying to navigate my way,” Cunningham explained. “So, it really means a lot to me to come here today and get that title.”
Cunningham’s family was at Hayward Field to witness her win the crown. She is coached by her father, former NFL star quarterback Randall Cunningham.
Moments after the event she opened up about winning in front of her coach and father on Father’s Day.
“The feeling is just amazing. I was looking at pictures of us over the years. I sent them to him, and I was like ‘Happy Father’s Day.’ I know that making him happy, makes me feel so good. I was blessed to have my family here and my dad,” Cunningham said. “I’m happy it was on Father’s Day.”
A little over a month from now, Cunningham will try to capture her first Olympic medal. She placed 13th at the 2016 Olympics. She’s confident things will be much different this time around.
Cunningham’s 6 feet, 7½ inches clearance in May is the No.1 mark in the world this year. She didn’t exceed her personal best on Sunday night, but she is in prime position to earn a spot on the podium in Tokyo.
“I do plan on peaking at the Olympics. I’m just waiting on God’s timing,” Cunningham said.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Randall Cunningham’s daughter, Vashti, qualifies for Olympic team