Vashti Cunningham wins high jump at Mount SAC Relays
NORWALK, Calif. (AP) Former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham keeps raising the bar - and daughter Vashti keeps clearing it.
Vashti Cunningham won the women's high jump Saturday at the Mount SAC Relays at Cerritos College, clearing 6 foot, 4 inches.
''I hadn't been in a real competition since before indoors so I was happy to be outside adjusting to the heat again,'' Cunningham said. ''My goal was 6-6 and then higher.
''But I skipped 6-5 to go to 6-6 because I was feeling better but when I got there I had to reach more, and I couldn't do it. It would have taken more speed, but I wasn't running fast today.''
The 18-year-old Vashti burst onto the world stage by winning the USA Indoor championships last month in Portland, Oregon, with a jump of 6-6 1/4, the world's best this year. She then became the youngest ever to win a gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor at 6-5.
Vashti expects to make her professional debut next month at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, and compete for a berth on the U.S. Olympic team in July.
In other events Saturday, Ashton Easton, the Olympic champion and world record holder in the decathlon, won the men's long jump at 26-6 1/2, but was beaten badly in the 110-meter hurdles.
In other events, Ashton Eaton, the Olympic champion and world record holder in the decathlon, won the men's long jump at 26-6 1/2 inches, but was a well-beaten fourth in the men's 110-meter hurdles.
Triple Olympic medalist Camelita Jeter was fourth in the women's 200-meter final.
For the Cunninghams, the high jump has become a family affair, with brother Randall II earning All-America status in the event as a freshman at the University of Southern California.
''We talk high jump all the time,'' Randall Sr. said. ''They get tired of it. Here goes dad, he won't stop talking about high jump. I say, `No, because I want you to be the best.' ''
Randall II finished fourth in the men's high jump Saturday.
''It's been great to see her become a high school state champion to now an Indoor world champion,'' Randall II said. ''It's been a pleasure for me to see her grow.''
The lessons that have carried Vashti and Randall II to new heights were hard-learned by their father over 16 seasons in the NFL.
''A lot of it are things I've experienced,'' said the senior Cunningham. ''A lot of people don't know what it's like to be a quarterback in an NFC championship game, or in the Pro Bowl, or in a college bowl game, or a high school championship.
''The pressure, once you've experienced it over and over and over, you don't get used to it but what you learn is how to channel your energy. And I can express that and explain that to Vashti and Randall.''
And he has different explanations for his different children.
''Randall is quiet. Vashti will chest-bump me, and tell me, `Be quiet, dad, I know what I'm doing,' Randall Sr. said, ''So I do coach them a teeny bit different, but same mentality, same philosophy.''
Vashti described her father's main message as ''not letting my pride get the best of me, and basically just being so thankful for everybody who is encouraging me and cheering for me,'' she said.
The former NFL quarterback has been surprised by what experience of coaching has brought out in him.
''I thought I wasn't going to be the same. I thought me as a coach I was going to be laid back,'' he said. ''I go through the same experiences as when I was playing in the NFL, the nerves, the desire to be great, everything. It's all the same.''