Vashti Cunningham came of age in style by smashing the world junior indoor high jump record on the final day of the US Championships in Portland on Saturday (March 12th), the 18-year-old soaring over 1.99m to establish a world-leading mark.
It was perhaps fitting that the previous record of 1.97m – which stood since 2011 – was held by reigning world champion Maria Kuchina, because Cunningham has long seemed destined for success at the very highest level.
Her clearance brought a sizeable crowd at the Oregon Convention Centre to its feet, and was one which establishes her as favourite for the high jump title at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016. Elizabeth Patterson edged Chaunte Lowe on countback to take silver, with both clearing a best of 1.93m.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” said Cunningham. “I knew I had that in me and this gives me a lot of confidence, that I’m now up there maintaining with all these girls.”
Cunningham, who has yet to graduate high school in her native Las Vegas, has few fears about taking on the world at the same venue next weekend. “The goal is to jump 6ft 7in or 6ft 8in (2.00m-2.03m) or whatever it takes to win,” she said. “I don’t feel the pressure. My Dad [Randall, who coaches her] has taught me to keep my eyes set on what I want to do and not pay attention to anyone else.”