If Vashti Cunningham had to predict the day she would make history, Saturday would have been way down the list.
Cunningham was feeling fatigued after needing five attempts to win the long jump during the morning, and the searing heat at Palo Verde didn’t help matters, either.
But none of that stopped the Bishop Gorman sophomore.
Cunningham cleared 6 feet, 3 inches to win the girls high jump at the Division I Sunset Region track and field meet and, in the process, put her name in the high school record book alongside some of the event’s biggest stars.
“I had to do more jumps in the long jump than I was hoping, and I thought I would be worn out,” Cunningham said. “When I was standing on my mark and all the people were watching, I’ve been working the whole season to get there. I just told myself, ‘You’re not going to quit now. You have to push through.’ “
Cunningham smashed her own region record of 5-10 and also set a personal record. Her previous best was 6-2 set April 12 at the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational.
Cunningham’s winning mark Saturday is the best ever in the high jump by a prep athlete from Nevada, topping the 6-2¼ by Reed’s Gabby Williams at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. It also tied five-time Olympian Amy Acuff for No. 2 all time in the U.S., according to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book.
Remarkably, Cunningham missed her first attempt at 5-6 — she said her father and coach, former UNLV and NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, put down the wrong starting mark — and needed three tries to get over 5-11.
After missing her first two attempts at 6-3, she scraped the bar on her final try but it stayed up, drawing a huge ovation from the crowd. Cunningham then failed in three attempts at 6-4¼, which would have topped the national record of 6-4 set by Toni Young of Del City (Okla.) in 2009.
“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t believe I would make 6-2,” Cunningham said. “I watched videos of myself from last season and this season, and the change is like night and day. Something happened and I’m way better now than last year.”
Cunningham’s record was one of four set Saturday in the Sunset Region. Ivy Dobson of Arbor View won the boys 200 meters in 21.01 seconds, Gorman’s Randall Cunningham II won the boys high jump in 7-1 and Centennial’s Dajour Braxton was first in the boys 1,600 (4:16.59).
Braxton also was first in the 3,200 to help the Bulldogs claim the boys team title with 210 points.
Centennial won the girls team title as well, scoring 199½ points. Sydney Badger was first in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, while Tyler Rowlette (200 and 400) and Tiana Bonds (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles) added two wins each for the Bulldogs, who also swept the four relays.
Dobson, who also took first in the 400, was a central figure in the boys 100, one of the day’s most anticipated races.
At the start of the season, Dobson predicted he would dethrone Bonanza’s Jayveon Taylor, the three-time defending state champion in the event. The DePaul signee got off to a fast Saturday and led for the first 50 meters before Taylor ran him down.
Taylor, who has battled a right hamstring injury for most of the season, crossed the line in 10.64, while Dobson was second with a time of 10.68.
“I didn’t feel any pain this week, so I came out fully prepared and ran the best I could,” said Taylor, who anchored Bonanza’s victorious 400 relay team. “I feel like I made a little point, but everybody was expecting me to do it anyway, so I just stay humble.”