March 16, 2005
By Scott MacDonald
June 15, 2003; this is the date of the last time that Georgia Tech junior high jumper Chaunte Howard lost in a collegiate competition. Where? The 2003 Outdoor NCAA Championships. Howard finished in a tie for first place with a clear of 6’1.75″, but lost due to more misses at the height to allow Washington State’s Whitney Evans claim the national title.
Now, Howard is a three-time NCAA national champion in the high jump and has won 21 straight collegiate competitions in the event. A native of Riverside, Calif., Howard claimed her third national title on March 11, in Fayetteville, Ark., at the 2005 Indoor NCAA Championships … in the same manner she lost her last competition. Howard and Southern Methodist’s Gaelle Niare both cleared the bar at 6’3.50″, but Howard won due to fewer misses at the height.
That mark tied an indoor school record that Howard set a year ago at the University of Arkansas at the indoor NCAA meet.
“It means a lot to me,” said Howard on defending her indoor national title. “I had to work for it. It’s harder once you’re on top because everybody is chasing you and it’s easier to fall.”
Prior to winning her third national title and earning her fifth All-America honor, Howard claimed her fifth straight Atlantic Coast Conference crown in the high jump at the indoor conference meet, tying an ACC meet record with a clear of 6’2.75″.
Howard won her first national title at the ’04 Indoor NCAA Championships in Fayetteville. She cleared the bar at 6’3.50″ to win by almost two inches.
“I actually didn’t think I had a shot until I won,” said Howard. “I was very confident going into the meet because I had personal-records in practice three of the seven times before the NCAA meet. So I felt that it was possible, but did not want to take anything for granted.”
The five-time All-American proceeded to capture her fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference title at the outdoor ACC Championships with an ACC conference and meet record clear of 6’4.75″.
At the 2004 Outdoor NCAA Championships, Howard posted a mark of 6’4″ to claim her second consecutive national title in the high jump on June 11.
According to jumps coach Nat Page, she was relaxed at the outdoor meet. “She was comfortable with those heights because she’d been clearing them in practice,” said Page. “She made some really nice jumps that night.”
The summer proved to be just as exciting and memorable for the track standout. Howard set a new outdoor school record at the BYU Invitational with a mark of 6’6″, winning a competition filled with professional athletes and some of the World’s top high jumpers.
“I felt really good that weekend and had been training hard all week leading up to that,” said Howard. “It provided me with a ton of confidence entering the U.S. Olympic Trials.”
Howard used that confidence to do something that she and coach Page only knew that she could do, qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Howard made the jump at 6’4.75″ on her second attempt to finish second at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif., on July 12, 2004.
“It was great to be able to do that in front of my friends and family,” said Howard.
At the Olympics, Howard finished in a tie for 28th place on a rare off day. “I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked,” said Howard. “But it was a good learning experience.”
A learning experience that was confirmed with her third straight national title this past weekend. Howard will be seeking her fourth straight national title, and second straight outdoor NCAA crown, at the Outdoor NCAA Championships, June 8-11, in Sacramento, Calif. The training for that date will begin with the start of the outdoor season in Tuscaloosa, at the Alabama Relays, March 19-20.