Before the outdoor track season began, senior Shelbi Vaughan of Legacy (Mansfield, Texas) set a goal to break the U.S. high school record in the discus.
“I thought it would take until the very last meet of my high school career,” she said.
Instead, she pocketed the record by the end of March. Last Friday at the Texas Relays, Vaughan uncorked a 191-foot, 6-inch throw to break the 2009 record of Anna Jelmini by 15 inches.
She has three months, maybe more, to set out after her next goal: Becoming the first prep girl to break the 200-foot barrier.
Vaughan began the week ranked third in the U.S. in the women’s discus – including pros and college athletes – and has a very real chance to be in the field at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. in June.
Only five women threw farther than 191 feet at the 2008 Olympic Trials and one of them, Stephanie Brown Trafton, went on to win the Olympic gold in Beijing, China.
Vaughan said she hasn’t changed her technique since last year, when she threw to a US#1 prep ranking and second place finish in the World Youth Championships at Lille, France.
“I’m not doing anything different,” she said. “I think I’m just bigger and stronger.”
A week prior to the Texas Relays, Vaughan hit a PR throw of 176-9 at the Keller Invitational, exceeding her 2011 best by four inches. She said she threw as far as 195 feet in practice leading up to the Texas Relays, so the distance on her second throw didn’t come as a complete surprise.
“I tend to throw left of center and at the end (of the throw) it went over to the side a little bit,” she said. “It’s normal for the discus to do that.”
Vaughan said she had no clue just how far she’d thrown at first.
“I was just hoping it was far,” she said. “(When I heard the distance) I kind of froze for a moment. Then I turned and saw my coach and went over to give her a hug, and then gave my mom a hug.”
She still had four throws remaining and she used them to try and duplicate her big throw.
“At that point, I was trying to remember what I did and repeat it, see if I could get another one out there,” Vaughan said. Three of her throws were fouls. One of them, she estimates, might have been in the upper 180s. Two others went over her previous PR in the low 180s.
Even though much of the country is just getting into the outdoor season, Vaughan has just four meets left in Texas. After a small meet on Thursday, she has districts, regionals and the state championships.
“I try to throw hard every meet,” she said. “I’m trying to PR every meet.”
So the record is by no means safe. Vaughan is looking to keep launching her discs further into the horizon – and she is starting to take a closer look at where she stands relative to the rest of the top throwers in the country, regardless of age.
“I am starting to (think about the Trials),” she said. “My goal was to get the (Olympic Trials) ‘B’ standard and I did that.”
The A standard, which would guarantee her a berth in the Trials field, is 196-10 (60 meters). If Vaughan really does get to 200 feet, and can throw that far in Eugene, all of a sudden she could be a legitimate contender for an Olympic team berth. (The Olympic A standard is 203-5).
That’s heady stuff, and it can probably wait just a bit.
In the meantime, Vaughan is happy to celebrate one goal before pursuing the next one.
“It’s been exciting,” she said. “I’ve had lots of people texting and saying ‘Congratulations.’ There’s been a lot of attention.”