Cunningham Wins NCAA High Jump Title|
June 10, 2016
EUGENE, ORE. -- Randall Cunningham won the high jump title, Ricky Morgan Jr. placed seventh in the 400m and the USC men's team finished 12th at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. today (June 10). Despite having an injury-depleted roster and just four athletes qualified for nationals, USC' men scored 16 points, just one point outside of a top 10 finish.
"Today was a great ending to a frustrating and injury-riddled season," said USC's Director of Track & Field Caryl Smith Gilbert. "We came to the Men's NCAA Championships with four sophomores. To leave here with three All-Americans and an NCAA Champion is quite a feat anyway you look at it. Coach (Sheldon) Blockburger did a fantastic job of preparing Randall and Adoree (Jackson) to compete at a high level at the right time. Coach (Quincy) Watts prepared Ricky to run 45 seconds and Ricky learned the value of running rounds properly at the regional meet for lane purposes in the final round. Adoree is jumping so consistently and he is such a fierce competitor, it is only a matter of time until he hits a HUGE jump! I look forward to watching him jump at the U.S. Olympic Trials in a few weeks back here in Eugene. It was exciting to watch Randall come into his own today and jump flawlessly and PR with no misses and so much emotion. 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...my hat goes off to him....I am very, very proud! As coach, I cannot help but reflect on the year and add up the "missing" points we have back at home due to injuries, professional contracts, etc. and ponder the "what if's" but in the end all we can do is coach what we have in the moment and in this moment these young men ended up 12th at the NCAAs and did one heck of a good job this week. I look forward to tomorrow and the championship battle for our women's team!"
The sophomore Cunningham was perfect through 7-4.50 (2.25m) and basically eliminated the competition on his first five attempts to win the NCAA high jump title and earn first-team All-America honors. He became the 11th Trojan outdoor high jump champion and the first since Jesse Williams in 2006. USC's 11 high jump titles are more than any other school, with Texas second at seven.
Cunningham got in the men's high jump at the first height of 6-10.25 (2.09m) and cleared it easily in his first attempt. He then was first over the second height of 7-0.25 (2.14m) in his first attempt and once that round was done, only 12 competitors remained. Cunningham then again was first over the third height of 7-2.25 (2.19m) in his first attempt. As they started the fourth height of 7-3.24 (2.22m) only nine competitors remained and only Cunningham was clean over all three bars. He then made if 4-for-4 by clearing that height in his first attempt. As the bar moved to 7-4.50 (2.25m), Cunningham was one of three jumpers remaining. He was first up and made it 5-for-5 on first-attempt clearances. That clearance was an outdoor PR for Cunningham and moved him from fifth to tied for fourth on USC's all-time high jump list.
Trey McRae of Charlotte only had one miss remaining and he couldn't clear the bar and was eliminated. Christoff Bryan of Kansas State missed twice and then passed up to the next height with one miss remaining. Cunningham jumped first at 7-5.75 (2.28m) and had his first miss of the day, but when Bryan missed, the title was Cunningham's. He move the bar to 7-6.00 (2.29m) to try and get the Olympic "A" Standard, but just grazed the bar on his first attempt and then missed on his final attempt.
"It is great to be a champion," said Cunningham. "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."
The sophomore Morgan was in lane one of the men's 400m final and finished seventh with a time of 46.63 to earn first-team All-America honors. Morgan got out pretty well, but couldn't hold on in the second half of the race. Morgan earned USC two points in the team competition. He originally placed eighth, but after the race was over Florida's Najee Glass was disqualified. Morgan is the first Trojan male to score in the 400m at nationals since Bryshon Nellum won the title in 2013, but he is also the ninth in the last 11 seasons. The 400m or the 440-yard race has always been of USC's strength as 61 times a Trojan has score at nationals, including Morgan's coach Quincy Watts who won the title in 1992 with a meet-record time of 44.00.
USC has scored at least 16 points in the men's competition in every season since 2005, quite a feat when your realize only 12 teams reached that total this season. It also makes it 12 consecutive top 12 finishes for the men's team.
Tomorrow competing for the USC women's team individually on the final day of the 2016 NCAA Track and Field Championships will be Tynia Gaither (100m & 200m), Deanna Hill (100m & 200m), Tera Novy (Discus) and Jaide Stepter (400m IH), as well as the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams.