By Emily Jones
After the fourth round of competition during the women’s high jump Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic, Chaunte Lowe was the only athlete to clear all heights on her first try, perfection.
“Today was ‘Be perfect,’ she said. “Even though no one was perfect, I was just trying to be perfect.”
Lowe, who is the indoor and outdoor American record holder in the high jump, cleared 6 feet, 4 3/4 inches on her first try when everyone else, in a field including all three 2016 world indoor championship medalists, fell short. Levern Spencer took second, clearing 6-3 1/2. However, when the bar was raised to 6-5 1/2, Lowe’s jumps weren’t there.
“This definitely won’t be the height that will win the Olympic Games, but it’s an indicator that I’m on the right track, and I’m really pushing forward toward that goal,” said Lowe.
Among the American Olympic hopefuls is Vashti Cunningham, who, at the age of 18 years and 62 days, won the event at the 2016 IAAF Indoor World Championships, becoming the youngest American woman to win a gold medal at indoor worlds.
“Before it was me going to the big meets, just seeing how I would do,” Cunningham said. “And now I’m up at the same level as everyone, so I have to do well every single time. I have to keep progressing with the season as it keeps going and not get left behind.”
Cunningham was competing as a professional for the first time since she signed with Nike after the championships. “I was thankful that I could come to this meet and get accustomed to the high jump pit and the area,” said Cunningham, who will compete at Hayward Field again in July at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Though she didn’t have her best performance, Cunningham is focused on the future.
“I think it went decently — nothing special, nothing too terrible, so just looking forward to trials and getting stronger from here,” Cunningham said.
As the U.S. Olympic Trials get closer, Lowe, too, is in preparation mode.
“I’m taking it one step at a time,” Lowe said. “I really remained perfect throughout the indoor season, and it was really hard to take losses. But I knew that my training is to peak at the Olympic Games.”
This will be Lowe’s third Olympic Games, and each one has been a disappointment for her. At the 2012 London Olympics, she jumped during the men’s 10,000 meters when Mo Farah won gold, and the noise was deafening.
“That was literally the worst experience of my life because I have never in my life heard a sound that high,” Lowe said. “Because of that experience, I know different things that I’m going to do to make sure that doesn’t effect me in the future.”
After being invited to the 2016 Ibero-American Championships, which took place May 14-16 in Rio, she stepped foot in Brazil for the first time. She also jumped a world-leading mark of 6-4.
“I just really wanted the opportunity to go there and see the track, be able to visualize what it’s going to be like during the Olympic Games,” Lowe said. “The food was amazing, the people were amazing, and I think that it was a great opportunity. I wish more athletes would have taken advantage of it.”
Lowe has grown since the last Olympics and is ready for whatever comes her way.
“I’m smarter; I’m wiser,” she said. “The race is not given to the swift, but the one who endures to the end. I’m going all the way to the end, God willing.”