Chaunte Lowe clears the bar during a qualifying round in the high jump at… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)
EUGENE, Ore. — There was no doubt about it. Aurora Lowe was making a loud razzing sound as she left the track at Hayward Field with her mother, four-time U.S. outdoor high jump champion Chaunte Lowe.
Everyone, it seems, is a critic.
Aurora, likely the only person to offer anything but applause after her mom easily advanced to Saturday's high jump final at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, can be forgiven. She's only 14 months old and just learned this new trick from her older sister, Jasmine, who's nearly 5.
"We're trying to break the habit," Chaunte Lowe said, trying to look stern but unable to repress a smile as she held Aurora, who weighed 4 pounds at birth but has grown into a lively and chubby-cheeked child.
Lowe, a sprint and high jump prodigy at Riverside North High, resumed training only two days after Aurora's birth and finished ninth at the 2011 U.S. championships after clearing 1.78 meters (5 feet 10 inches), well off the American record of 2.05 meters (6-83/4) she set in 2010. Caring for two children, she found, is infinitely more difficult than caring for one.
Helped by her husband, former Florida State triple jumper Mario Lowe, she has been finding a stronger balance between motherhood and competition as she attempts to qualify for the London Olympics and earn the first U.S. high jump medal since Louise Ritter's gold in 1988.
Lowe won the world indoor title in March, has the second-best outdoor jump in the world this year (2 meters, 6-63/4) and two of the top four outdoor heights. Lowe, 28, leads the high jump standings of the Diamond League pro circuit with victories at Shanghai and Oslo as well as a third-place finish here at the Prefontaine Classic four weeks ago.
"When you have one child and two parents it's easy for us to just tag-team and just take care of her. But when it's one parent per child, that ratio makes it a lot more difficult," she said.
"Sometimes I would be able to leave my oldest daughter with my husband by himself, but now he could tend to get overwhelmed with the two girls at the same time. So I don't have that freedom to just move around and train the way that I want to. But I'm a parent first and I have to take care of my responsibilities and when there's extra time I get to go take care of the other stuff."
She said leaving both daughters home when she competed at the Prefontaine Classic adversely affected her performance in that meet. Her best jump of 1.97 meters (6-51/2) ranked her behind Russians Anna Chicherova (2.02, 6-71/2) and Svetlana Shkolina (2 meters, 6-63/4 ).
"It was the first time we had to leave our children and both of us were gone and I think I had a hard time sleeping that night," she said. "It's going to happen again if we make it to London so I have to get used to that and turn my mommy sensors off and know that the kids are going to be fine."
To earn a spot on the U.S. team she must finish in the top three Saturday. Her competition is diverse, ranging from 15-year-old Nevada high school phenom Gabrielle Williams to UCLA alumna Amy Acuff, who's trying to make her fifth Olympic team at age 36.
"I think there's a lot of good competition. There was a high school girl out there and this was my first time seeing her and I'm really excited about the future of high jump because she's really good," Lowe said of Williams.
"There are a lot of women to watch and I think it's going to be one of the best U.S. competitions I've had in a very long time."
She probably wouldn't mind if she gets razzed by her daughter again as long as she gets an Olympic spot.