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Vashti Cunningham wants podium finish at World Championships

The goal is to make the high jump medal podium. To achieve that, Vashti Cunningham likely will need to jump higher than she ever has at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

But America’s best high jumper is at the World Championships intent on doing just that.

“She’s on the right path,” said Randall Cunningham, Vashti’s father and coach. “She hasn’t hit peak point yet, so she’s feeling good. This is another opportunity for her to do well. She’s been climbing up that ladder.”

Qualifying is at 11:10 a.m. Saturday. The final is at 5:40 p.m. Tuesday.

Vashti Cunningham, who went to Bishop Gorman High School, has been on a roll this season, winning five of six meets. That includes the U.S. Outdoor Championships on June 24 with a leap of 1.93 meters (about 6 feet 3 inches) at the same Eugene track where the worlds are taking place. That was her 11th indoor or outdoor national championship.

The only meet Cunningham, 24, didn’t win was the Prefontaine Classic, also in Eugene, on May 27. She also jumped 1.93 in that meet, but was beaten out by Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh, who leapt 2 meters (nearly 6-6).

Vashti Cunningham could not be reached for comment.

Randall Cunningham, College Football Hall of Fame quarterback at UNLV and longtime NFL QB, said for his daughter to reach the podium, she probably will need to clear at least 2 meters. Vashti Cunningham, ranked sixth in the world, has reached that mark four times in competition, including in the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, earning her a bronze medal.

She cleared 1.96 (about 6-4) at last year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo and was disappointed in the sixth-place finish. Randall Cunningham was much more positive, pointing out his daughter is still young and improved from a 13th-place finish in her Olympic debut five years earlier.

“The thing I like is she’s beginning to understand world championships,” Randall Cunningham said. “Everybody thinks just because you’re at the top, you’re just going to jump and be the best in the world. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s really that day, and she understands that.”

But Randall Cunningham also said after the Olympics he would re-evaluate her preparation, and this year Vashti Cunningham entered the competition later than other athletes.

“This year, I didn’t push her really, really hard because it was a long year after the Olympics and the Nike Prefontaine,” Randall Cunningham said. “So I said, ‘Let’s ease into it.’ So we’ve eased into it, and this year has been a good year.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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