Cunningham wins NCAA title in high jump

Fourteen track and field athletes competed at the NCAA Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, last week. There were 10 women and four men who qualified following their performance in the West Preliminary qualifying rounds.

The highlight of the event was sophomore Randall Cunningham winning the men’s high jump on Friday.

“It is great to be a champion,” said Cunningham in a press release. “This is what everyone trains for to come out here and be No. 1 and be a champion, so for it to actually happen for me means the world to me.”

Cunningham was able to finish strong in a season slowed down by injuries and problems.

“It was exciting to watch Randall come into his own today and jump flawlessly and PR with no misses and so much emotion,” said Director of Track & Field Caryl Smith Gilbert. “He is proud to be Trojan and we are honored that he represented us with so much charisma, class and tenacity today. He had has a tough year but he never gave up and that is a true sign of a warrior and champion.”

On Friday Cunningham started off at 2.09 m in the high jump final and did not miss a jump in the next four measures (2.14, 2.19, 2.22, 2.25). 2.25 also marks Cunningham’s outdoor PR. No one else was able to clear 2.25 m. Cunningham had his first miss at 2.28 m. When he was sure of the title, he raised the bar at 2.29 m, the Olympic “A” Standard, but fouled his last two attempts.

The men’s competition started on Wednesday with sophomore Adoree’ Jackson placing fifth in the men’s long jump. Jackson was in third place after the first three jumps with a mark of 7.65 m entering the finals but dropped off the podium before his fourth leap. His final mark of 7.66 m came in the fifth round. Jackson gave USC four points in the team competition and earned All-American status for the second year in a row. Jackson will be back in the same field battling for a spot in the Olympic team.

On the women’s side of the competition, USC was able to advance to seven final rounds. Junior Destinee Brown, sophomore Deanna Hill, senior Alexis Faulknor and senior Tynia Gaither set a new school record of 42.90 as they finished second in the 4×100 m relay.

In the women’s long jump freshman Margaux Jones and Faulknor weren’t able to finish in scoring positions, ending the event in ninth and 10th place, respectively. Jones earned second-team All-America honor.

Senior Tera Novy finished seventh in the women’s discus throw, becoming a two-time All-American. She marked 57.70 m in her third attempt and wasn’t able to improve in the final throws.

Stepter finished sixth in the 400 m hurdles final with a time of 55.30, earning her second All-American honor in the event.

Sophomore Nick Ponzio competed in the men’s shot put. He placed twelfth overall with a mark of 18.80 m, earning second-team All-America honors.

On Friday, junior Ricky Morgan Jr. ran in the 400 m final after earning a spot on Wednesday. He finished seventh in 46.63, earning first-team All-America honors.

“Track and field is full of ups and downs, but it is our responsibility is to capitalize and come through in championship situations,” said Smith-Gilbert.

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