Casidy Cunningham received a standing ovation during the Lompoc Unified School District board of education meeting on Tuesday night.
Cunningham didn’t get a rousing applause because of her track and field accomplishments – even after winning the Los Padres League title in the 100 and 200-meter dash last year. Instead, the cheers were for the senior announcing her future plans to attend Columbia University.
Cunningham, the niece of former NFL star quarterback Randall Cunningham, said there were nerves about making the announcement in front of the school board members and everyone else in attendance, especially on an evening when Tom Blanco was honored for his extensive work at Lompoc High as a trainer. But the senior said her announcement was a humbling honor.
“At first, I was nervous to announce my commitment at the board meeting,” Cunningham said via email. “Just because I didn’t want to come off like I was bragging, but I was also very humbled and honored that the board was so interested in my commitment – and proud that they would invite me to share it at the meeting.”
Cunningham posted her admissions acceptance letter from the distinguished Ivy League university on Dec. 14 on her social media pages before announcing her decision to join the Lions on Tuesday. She said, originally, she wasn’t set on choosing Columbia due to the career field she was hoping to see but soon had a change of heart when she found something identical to her major.
“I did not see that they had my major (criminal justice) and I wanted to go somewhere with my major – and not go just for sports,” Cunningham said. “However, once the track and field coach told me they did have criminal justice, but as human rights, I was hooked."
She won’t just study that career field on the New York City campus, she plans to keep the track and field spikes on her feet and compete for Ivy League championships. Her LHS track and field coach Claudia Terrones is one who shares similar excitement for Cunningham’s trek to the Ivy League ranks.
“Super excited for her commitment,” Terrones said by text message, who added that along with the sprinting events, Cunningham takes part in triple and long jump. “She has waited her whole life for the letter of acceptance. Her grades (Cunningham is ranked fourth overall in her graduating class) and SAT score (Cunningham scored a 1200) sealed the deal. She is a hard working individual whose work ethic is admired.”
Cunningham, who also played girls volleyball at Lompoc High, will be the first in her family to attend an Ivy League college. Now that she has gotten her commitment and four-year plan out the way, she has goals she’s setting out in her final season on the track at LHS.
“My goals for this year are to maintain my spot as league champ for the 100 and 200,” Cunningham said. “I would also like to jump 18 feet in the long jump and 40 feet in the triple jump. I’m also hoping to make the CIF Masters Meet and advance to state.”