Welcome to the Wild Wild West

Grace Cunningham commits to Texas Tech University for Women’s Track and Field


Courtesy of Grace Cunningham

Grace Cunningham (12) springs into the air for her high jump event.

Kristyann Esteron, Sports Editor

Senior Grace Cunningham committed to Texas Tech University for Women’s Track and Field. Located in Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech has one of the top track teams in the country with separate men’s and women’s teams that both compete in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. 

For Cunningham, the signing process was pretty easy considering the fact that she has always wanted to go to Tech. It was exciting for Cunningham to explore campus and meet her new coaches.

Cunningham started running track at the age of six and has been doing track for 12 years. She participated in the high jump, long jump, 100m, 200m, 4×100 relay, and the 4×200 relay on Silverado’s Track and Field team and also runs for a club team apart from school.

Being genetically a force to be reckoned with, hard work and determination is what makes Cunningham an outstanding athlete. On top of that, she works hard both on and off campus to maximize her potential. When you initially meet Grace, the first thing you will notice is her height. But after training with her, you’ll notice her speed and strength are beyond impressive. 

“A lot of kids will play a sport but only practice when that specific sports team is practicing,” said track coach Jerry Oliver. “Great athletes like Grace are practicing when nobody else is.  She trains year around.  When she is not practicing with the Silverado track team, she is practicing and strength training with her club team. If you want to be great at something, you have to be all in and she is all in with track and field.”

Cunningham has improved a lot over the years. Her numbers speak for themselves. She jumps higher and farther and runs faster, and her form has improved as well. That’s very much connected to her hard work put in off campus, in club, and as part of the Silverado program.

Some of Cunningham’s motivations is wanting to be the best version of herself and always getting better every time she competes. 

“The best part of competing is seeing all of the hard work that you have put in at practice pay off in the meet,” Cunningham said.

The people who inspired Cunningham as a young athlete were her siblings. They have shown her what it is like to be a successful athlete, and she aspires to accomplish what they have accomplished and more. For example, her sister Vashti Cunningham competed in the 2016 Olympics in the high jump event. Her brother Randall is currently on the USC track and field team.

One of the challenges Cunningham has had to face being an athlete is COVID-19. It took Cunningham by complete surprise as it was sad for her not knowing when she was going to compete again due to the cancellation of the track season. 

“It was hard not competing because that is all I have known since I was six, so I really had to adjust to this new norm,” Cunningham said.

Despite the hardships faced through the pandemic, one of Cunningham’s strengths as an athlete and a person is perseverance through difficult times or other people’s opinion of her. Cunningham does her best to focus on herself and her mental and physical growth as a person and not let certain things affect her.

Cunningham’s friendliness shines through all the people she meets. One of her teammates, Alaysia Satchell’s, favorite qualities of Cunningham is that she’s honest and fun. 

“Grace always compliments other teammates when they’re doing great and uplifts other athletes when they feel like giving up,” Satchell said.

As for her coaches, if they could describe Cunningham in three words, Coach Oliver would say that she is focused, kind, and graceful. Oliver is very proud of her and hopes to see her compete in a national competition soon. For Coach Kurtis Cenatiempo, he would describe Cunningham as tough, athletic, and fun. 

“She’s a great combination of all three,” said Coach Cenatiempo.

There has never been a dull moment with Grace and her coaches. One fun memory Coach Cenatiempo has had with her was practicing handoffs with the relay team. And watching them beat the distance boys in a 4×100 race.

One great memory Coach Oliver has had with her was when she was competing in Covina, California during her sophomore year. She was in a battle with two other girls from Bonita California and Harvard-Westlake California.  The girl from Bonita cleared 5’8” on her second attempt, Grace cleared on her third attempt and Westlake cleared on her third.  It was a huge personal record for the two girls from California and the crowd had grown around the high jump pit to watch these girls.  They had to go up to 5’10” because there were 3 left and they went up by 2″ until there were two competitors left.  Grace made three amazing attempts at 5’10” and just nicked the bar off each time.

“It was amazing because she was so high over the bar and just barely touched the bar each time,” said Coach Oliver.