Eighteen-year-old world high jump champion Vashti Cunningham will open her professional career at the Mt. SAC Relays this Saturday. Fans can watch her compete at 2:30 p.m. PT on FloTrack. The event holds significance for the high school senior from Las Vegas, who broke her first national high school record here last year. Cunningham now has a 6-6.25 clearance under her belt and is the youngest female athlete in history to win an IAAF World Indoor Championships title, but her 2015 win -- and 6-4.25 jump -- remains a special moment in her career. No other prep has ever jumped higher than 6-4. The freshly minted Nike pro talked to MileSplit in an exclusive interview about her history with and expectations for the competition. The following passage is Vashti's own words.
Before Mt. SAC last year, I had the Arcadia Invitational. All of my brother's coaches from USC came out to watch me, so I was like, 'oh, I have to do good.' And I only jumped like 6-2 that day. I was really mad, I even shed a couple tears.
My brother was like, 'what is wrong with you?'
'I just cleared 6-2. My name, my picture, was on the front of the brochure and I only cleared 6-2. This is a disappointment to everyone at the meet.'
My dad [Randall Cunningham, NFL quarterback legend and Vashti's coach] was like, 'you need to use how you feel now to take you into the next week.'
So at Mt. SAC, I had a different mindset. I knew that this was the meet where I had to bring myself back. Everyone else didn't think I did bad at Arcadia, but I knew I could have gone higher.
I knew if I went 6-2 again, I would just be mad at myself. So I had to do it.
I actually wanted to hit 6-5 at the meet, but I knew since I went 6-2 the previous week, I figured I'd probably hit 6-4. But in the back of my mind, I knew I could get 6-5 and then [6-4.25, the national high school record] just kind of happened.
It was a mental difference. I felt really good. I was ready to go home and go to sleep.
I love the track meet at Mt. SAC. I've really loved going to the other track, but it's being moved this year to Cerritos. But I have a really good history at Cerritos because when I was younger, I used to always win there.
My dad was like, 'you're going to one of your home turfs.'
I'm excited because my brother's competing there, too.
My goal for this meet is 6-7. I think that once I hit 6-7, if I can just maintain it 'til the Olympics and then go higher there, I'd be beyond happy for that.