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High-jumper Chaunte Lowe not ceding to the future just yet

Chaunte Lowe won Sunday's women's high jump final at trials with a jump of 6 feet, 7 inches. Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

EUGENE, Ore. -- As the bar inched skyward in the women's high jump final Sunday at the U.S. Olympic trials, all eyes were glued to Vashti Cunningham, the 18-year-old prodigy, 6-foot-1 physical marvel and daughter of NFL great Randall Cunningham.

Then, Chaunte Lowe, the 32-year-old veteran of three Olympics and 5-foot-9 mother of three children, proved that she retains a firm grip on the No. 1 spot.

After winning first place Sunday with a jump of 6 feet, 7 inches, the best mark in the world this year, Lowe described herself as "an old-timer who's not ready to be counted out."

"You saw that today," said Lowe, the American record-holder. "I'm not ready to give up yet."

Cunningham, riding a wave of attention since winning the world indoor championships earlier this year, took second with a jump of 6-5½.

Lowe had a tough 2015. She moved her training home base from Atlanta to Florida to obtain special care for her 5-year-old daughter, who had shown signs of autism or Asperger's syndrome. Lowe failed to clear any height at the world championships at Beijing -- "I put my children first," she explained -- and Cunningham began her precocious rise.

"It hurt a little bit to feel forgotten so quickly," Lowe said. "I didn't like that when I would read articles, instead of talking about how great [Cunningham] is, I felt like it was a bashing of me a lot of times. At the beginning of the year that hurt, for nobody to really know and understand why I no-heighted last year, why I had a hard time."

Cunningham's routine looked effortless in the early rounds, drawing oohs from the crowd at Hayward Field, as she smoothly launched her slender frame over the bar with inches to spare. Her first trouble came at 6-4¾, where she missed twice before clearing on her do-or-die third attempt. She cleared 6-5½ on her first try, then missed badly three times at 6-6¼ to end her competition.

Cunningham, whose mother, Felicity, was a professional ballerina, said she wants to win every competition. "This [loss] was something that hit me on the head that's going to make me work harder for the Olympics, so that I can go in there and give everything I have and hopefully be content at the end with first," she said.

Lowe flung herself over each height, then performed elaborate bows and curtsies to the crowd with a huge smile on her face. After clearing 6-7 on her second try, she elected to shut it down and focus on her real objective.

"I'm not celebrating yet. This wasn't my goal," Lowe said, setting her sights on Rio. "My goal is on that podium."

Lowe had high praise for Cunningham, comparing her potential to that of a young Usain Bolt.

"She's a great girl," Lowe said, "and she's definitely the future of high jumping in America."

Just don't relegate Lowe to the past.