WHEN CHLOE CUNLIFFE (West, Seattle) went to the indoor all-comers meet at Tacoma’s Pacific Lutheran University on St. Patrick’s Day, it was literally a last-chance meet. Last chance for the senior to improve on the PR of 14-0 (4.27) that she first set as a junior. Last chance to salvage her injury-ravaged undercover season. Last chance to go after the HSR of 14-4 (4.37) that Tori Weeks (now Hoggard) set in ’15.
Her coach, Tim Reilly, wasn’t even there. “I was actually on an airplane coming home from the Hershey [USATF Youth] meet in New York and she picked up poles and got herself there to take a last crack at the indoor marks,” he says.
Cunliffe had cleared 13-9¼ (4.20) and a PR-equaling 14-0 in January. Then her right wrist went on the fritz and she didn’t vault at all in February. “It was really annoying,” she says. In that down-time she lifted weights and concentrated on sprint drills with her dad. “Over the last few weeks it’s gotten so much better,” she says. “Right now it feels 100% better.”
In Tacoma, she needed two tries to get over her opening height of 13-1½ (4.00). She cleared 13-7¼ (4.15) on her first, then missed and passed at 14-1¼ (4.30), even though it would have been a PR.
Then she had the bar put at a national record 14-5¼ (4.40), which would better Weeks’ standard from ’15. She made it on her first try: “I was like, ‘OK, I kind of knew that was in me.’” Putting the bar at 14-9 (4.50)? That was just gravy. She missed her first attempt; then she made it. “That one did surprise me,” she confesses. The mark is also an absolute HSR, bettering the 14-7½ (4.46) of Lexi Weeks (now Jacobus) in ’15. It would also rate as an American Junior Record, but USATF’s number-of-officials regulations will negate that possibility. (continues below)
Says Reilly, “I figured 14-9 was absolutely going to happen by May, but I was a bit surprised that it came so fast. And to have two record jumps in one session.”
Now Cunliffe, who is bound for Washington State—where she will train under former world indoor/outdoor champ Brad Walker—has to adjust her goals for outdoors. “Hopefully 15-feet or higher,” she says. At Tacoma, she took two unsuccessful attempts at 15-1 (4.60) just to see what it felt like. Her form has had some online commentators very impressed, and there’s no doubt that speed runs in the family, since older sister Hannah was the ’17 NCAA Indoor 60 champion for Oregon.
Of the whirlwind close to her indoor campaign, the new recordholder explains, “I just tried to make up for all the time I missed. I’ve never vaulted so much. I worked really hard when I came back.”