Oct. 15, 2015
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
– Chaunte Lowe has always loved to fly. She realized that at an early age.
“I was listening to that song by Kris Kross called `Jump,’ I was jumping in our house and I realized that my head was almost touching the ceiling,” she recalled. “I was an elementary school student, so I wasn’t very tall, and I was jumping really high. That’s when I realized, `I have a love for this. I’m good at it, and it’s the closest thing you can get to flying.'”
She’s still jumping, still loves it and is still good at it — world-class good.
In that regard, little has changed since the former Chaunte Howard was taking off and launching herself for the highest heights from 2003-05 at Georgia Tech.
Lowe will be one of nine in the Class of 2015 to be inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame at the annual Induction Dinner, taking place Friday night at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. She’ll join All-American shortstop Tyler Greene, two-time NFCA All-America pitcher Jessica Sallinger Cole, longtime director of broadcasting Wes Durham, first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference tailback Joe Burns, four-time Academic All-America punter Dan Dyke, Georgia Tech football manager and alum Charlie Germany, All-Atlantic Coast Conference golfer Kris Mikkelsen, and Jakie Rudolph, a football All-American Specialist and two-sport letterman in football and golf.
A three-time Olympian, seven-time USATF Outdoor champion, two-time USATF Indoor champion, and three-time NCAA champion (twice indoors, once outdoors), Lowe is the most decorated high jumper in school history.
She also is a physical marvel as she’s a mother to two daughters and a son and competed at the 2015 Worlds in Beijing, China, only months after delivering her son.
Yet, Lowe’s remarkable career in the high jump almost never got off the ground. Her coach at John W. North High School in Riverside, Calif., did all he could to persuade Chaunte to abandon high-jumping for sprinting. But there would be no keeping her down. She held firm and eventually won her coach over — by winning a contest with him.
“He made me do the hardest workout ever and then at the end of practice he said, `If you can out-jump all of our high jumpers you can jump.'” recalled Lowe, who also excelled at cross country at the time. “So I did it. I beat them all and that allowed me to become a high jumper.”
Another childhood dream Lowe harbored was to compete in the Olympics. That dream took a quantum leap when she chose to go to college at Georgia Tech. Working with Coach Nat Page, her career took off.
“I was not only interested in athletics, but I wanted to find a place that was both academically challenging and also athletically accomplished so I could develop as an athlete,” she said. “It was always my goal to become an Olympian, and I knew that my first shot would happen during my sophomore year in college. So I wanted to make sure that I put myself in the best position to have a degree, where I could write my own ticket as far as gaining a career, but also put me in the best position to become an Olympic high-jumper.
“I did my research and I knew that Coach Page was an amazing coach, who also coached Tisha Waller, who at the time had the indoor American record and had several great national and world rankings,” she added. “I knew that it would be a good situation for me.”
It turned into a great situation for Lowe and for Georgia Tech.
She started by winning ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003 then had a 2004 to remember. At that year’s ACC Championships she competed in just about every event that required leaving her feet.
“I think the ACC Championships were always my favorite,” she said. “Being able to go to the ACC Championships and do the high jump, long jump, triple jump, hurdles, I think that might have been my sophomore year, I did all those events and I was able to compete really well in and see so many of my teammates go to the Nationals. Just being able to do it as a team. We were able to bond and I have those friendships, even to this day.”
She also proved prophetic about the Olympics, as she made the 2004 U.S. team and got to compete in the Athens Games, becoming the first female Georgia Tech athlete to compete in an Olympics.
Lowe left Georgia Tech having set the indoor (1.91m (6-3.50)) and outdoor (19.8m (6-6)) high jump records — marks she still holds — and earned 13 All-ACC honors and six All-America accolades.
As a pro, she’s gotten to re-live her Olympic dream two times since `04, in Beijing (`08), and in London (`12).
She also has stayed in touch with Page, who still coaches her and who will present Chaunte on Friday night in the induction ceremony.
“It’s more like father and daughter,” she said. “He walked me down the aisle during our wedding ceremony and then five years later, for our anniversary, we had a vow renewal ceremony, where Coach Page walked me down the aisle.”
The Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame is one of the few halls of fame left in which Lowe is not already a member, and the recognition means a great deal to her.
“I was inducted into my high school hall of fame and just recently, this year, I also was inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame,” she said, adding, with a laugh, “`Hey, these guys can’t beat my own alma mater! I wonder if they’re ever going to do that for me? I would hope that they would.’ When Georgia Tech called, I was just super-excited.”
Lowe said she didn’t do one of her famous, crowd-pleasing, spontaneous celebration dances that she does after clearing the bar, after getting the call, but, it’s not out of the question for Friday.
“I don’t even realize it and the craziest thing is I’m a much better dancer than I come across in those spontaneous dances,” she said, with a laugh. “I think it’s my way of being really excited and celebrating every jump or every victory or every milestone that I’ve come across.”
These days, she, husband, best friend and training partner, triple-jumper Mario Lowe, and their kids live in Orlando, where, when she’s not working out, she works as an accountant in Lakeland, Fla., as well as with TDAmeritrade.
“My ideal situation would be to be a phenomenal investor and trader once I’m done competing,” she said.
Chaunte actually has an eye and a specific event at which she’ll hang up her spikes, but it’s not in the near future. She wants to not only compete in a fourth Olympics, at the 2016 Games in Rio, but has plans for a grand finale at Tokyo 2020.
“I feel so really young, I feel like I have the ability. It’s all about a mindset and deciding if it’s what I want and recently I decided it IS what I want,” she said. “I think that [the 2020 Games] would be a great goal to shoot for and a great retirement spot.”
By then Chaunte would be 36 and ready to watch her children, who may show signs of wanting to one day jump.
“Oh my gosh, I have one that I think is a sprinter, I have one that is very strong. My eight-year-old actually picked up my husband yesterday, and he’s 225 pounds,” she said, with a laugh. “I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to do with this girl. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with her. I’m looking at her and I’m thinking triple-jumper because she’s very strong, she’s very fast and she’s solid.”
Lowe will always be grateful for the opportunity Georgia Tech gave her.
“Georgia Tech has done so much for me in allowing me to develop as a person,” she said. “To come to Georgia Tech and be challenged in a way that I never had before, both athletically and academically, it’s made me a better person. I did not leave there the same as I entered that school. I am so grateful for Coach [Grover] Hinsdale, Coach [Alan] Drosky, Coach [Becky] Megesi, Coach Page, Lucius (Sanford), there are a lot of people that really helped kind of raise me, help me grow from a little girl into a woman. It’s meant a lot to me in my life and I’m so grateful.”