Favored Vashti Cunningham survived an early scare to win her second consecutive outdoor title (to go with 3 consecutive indoor ones).
A field of 13 started the competition at 5-10 (1.78), all clearing save Cunningham and Olympian Inika McPherson, who both passed. However, the subsequent height, 6-0 (1.83), reduced the initial field of 13 virtually in half, to 7. Cunningham had an uncharacteristic miss before clearing. How uncharacteristic? She had never missed at the height in her entire professional career. After a discussion with her father/coach, she adjusted her marks, then made 4 consecutive attempts, not missing again until 6-4¾ (1.95), her winning jump.
Along with Cunningham, 4 others cleared the third height, 6-1¼ (1.86), including fellow Team USA members McPherson and Liz Patterson, together with Logan Boss and Zarriea Willis. Boss (jumping for the first time since March) and McPherson shared the lead, with Cunningham hampered by her early miss.
6-2¼ (1.89) was a height too high for Boss and Willis, while Indoor runner-up Inika McPherson, flawless to that point, required 3 attempts. Both Cunningham and ’17 runner-up Patterson sailed over on first attempt. The lead thus shifted to Patterson and Cunningham.
With the top 3 determined, the bar was raised to 6-3½ (1.92). Cunningham had her third consecutive first attempt clearance, to take sole possession of the lead, but McPherson needed 2 attempts, and Patterson bowed out.
With the title on the line at 6-4¾ (1.95), McPherson and Cunningham went head-to-head. Cunningham produced the only clearance, on her final attempt, to claim the title and up her yearly U.S. outdoor lead. Still only 20, she reflected on the past year: “I feel like I’ve just become more comfortable with myself and grown in the area of mental maturity and strength.”
Cunningham has another adversary: “My goal, of course, is to break the 2-meter [6-6¾] barrier, which seems to be just like not my best friend. We seem to be a little bit of rivals, but I’m going to come back and whip that, eventually.” It has been 6 years since an American has joined the exclusive 2m club. Cunningham, stuck at 1.99 (6-6) since winning the ’16 indoor at that height, is ready to become member No. 9.
USATF WOMEN’S HIGH JUMP RESULTS
1. Vashti Cunningham (Nik) 6-4¾ (1.95) (out AL);
2. Inika McPherson (unat) 6-3½ (1.92);
3. Liz Patterson (unat) 6-2¼ (1.89);
4. Logan Boss (unat) 6-1¼ (1.86);
5. Zarriea Willis (TxT) 6-1¼ =PR;
6. Loretta Blaut (Cinc) 6-0 (1.83) =PR;
7. Amina Smith (GState) 6-0;
=8. Ty Butts (unat) 5-10 (1.78);
=8. Liz Evans (unat) 5-10;
=8. Susan Jackson (unat) 5-10;
=8. Shelley Spires (AF) 5-10;
12. Jelena Rowe (NvGaz) 5-10;
13. Amber Melville (unat) 5-10. □