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So far for the outdoor season, only two other women in the world have jumped as high as Levern Donaline Spencer. One of the other two, Chaunté Lowe of the USA, turned 32 earlier this season. Levern turns 32 in June. The third woman is another Caribbean athlete, 21-year-old phenomenon, akela Jones of Barbados.
But it was the Saint Lucian Olympian and Pan Am Games champion making the news this weekend. Levern contested the Rio Invitational Women’s High Jump at the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee, a meet where she has usually been the bridesmaid.
Her rivals in Des Moines included defending champion, Doreen Amata of Nigeria, and recently minted professional athlete, Vashti Cunningham, a teenage prodigy who is expected to add the World Junior Championships title to her World Junior Record and World Indoor Championships gold later this year.
With constant rain leading to soggy conditions outdoors, and Levern saying that she was “concerned” about the footing, it was a relief for all the jumpers to discover that the competition would be moved indoors, even though it would still go into the IAAF classification as an “outdoor” meet.
Amata, Cunningham, and Maya Pressley of the USA all went clear first time at 1.75m, a height eschewed by the Saint Lucian. She entered at 1.80, and cleared it on her first attempt, as did five other competitors. At 1.85, though, the herd began to thin. The top four cleared in straightforward fashion, whilst only two other athletes carried on.
Surprisingly, the title was won at 1.90m, where Levern needed two bites at the cherry. But the two Americans and the Nigerian were unable to get over on three trials at 6’0.75″ and handed the gold medal to the Entrepot Secondary alumna, at 1.55m the shortest woman in the field by some ways (Amata is 1.89m or 6’6″ tall!).
Levern moved the bar to 1.95m, three centimetres better than she has done before this season. It required a second effort, but up and over she went at 6’4/75″ to match the world lead. Three tries at what would have been a new CARICOM record 2.00m proved fruitless, but the job had been done.
Following her victory, Levern expressed her delight at her latest accomplishment:
“Today in terms of performance it was great because it’s a season’s best, and it’s the number one jump in the world so far, so I’m pleased with that… I’m really excited. I’ve competed at Drake like several years, and I’m always like second or third, so finally I’m first this time, so I’m really excited for that.”
Levern will next compete at the Shanghai Diamond League event.
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