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Friday, March 30, 2012
Texas Relays Friday: Vaughan's record "effortless and smooth"

By Doug Binder, John Sullivan, and Steve Underwood

Shelbi Vaughan knew that the U.S. record in the girls’ discus was within her reach.

The senior from Legacy (Mansfield, Texas) said she threw 195 feet in practice last week, so Friday's second-attempt flight of 191-6 at the Texas Relays was not a complete shock. It was, however, a shock to those outside her inner circle – fans who had seen a thrower who has been in the 170s since last spring suddenly improve nearly 15 feet and from #18 on the all-time list to the very top. It was also the highlight of a day that also saw a US#1 20-3 long jump by Fayetteville (Fayetteville, Ark.) senior Sydney Conley, four more national leaders in the relays, pole vaults above 17 feet (boys) and 13 feet (girls), and a general assault on the current national lists.

But no one was better than Vaughan, who not only broke Michelle Carter’s meet record, but took down the national standard of 190-3 set by Californian Anna Jelmini in 2009.

“The 191-6 felt effortless and smooth,” Vaughan said. “It was a tailwind today and that wasn't ideal.” She also mentioned she had a sore arm, but that it affected her shot putting more than the discus (Vaughan is entered in Saturday’s SP, as well).

Given that it wasn’t necessarily the perfect scenario Saturday, then, one can only wonder if Vaughan can push toward 200 feet. Her series Friday also included two more throws just over 180, plus three fouls. The 2011 World Youth champ can set her sights on bigger goals, like the Olympic Trials and World Juniors. Only nine U.S. women threw further than Vaughan last year and she has now surpassed the Trials “B” standard (the “A” is 196-10). And only two women (both from Germany) are ahead of Vaughan on the World Junior list.

Field event battles

The other field events were much more competitive. Conley – the New Balance Nationals Indoor long jump champ – was engaged in a great battle with Plano East (Plano, Texas) senior Jennifer Madu. Conley got her winning 20-3 (+1.2w) on her second attempt, the same round where Madu hit 20-0.75w (+2.2).

In the boys pole vault, Shawn Barber – the Kingwood Park (Kingwood, Texas) senior – had his fourth meet of the year over 17-6 (in and out) and was close to his US#1 17-8 PR. He couldn’t quite get 18 feet. “I was glad to win today,” he said. “This is a little bigger meet than when I went 17-8. My best was 16-6 last year, but I’ve been working very hard and it’s paying off.”

Spring (Spring, Texas) senior Reese Watson, who went 17-7 indoors in February but could not clear a bar at NBNI due to injury, got back up to 16-6.75 for third. Meanwhile, Avarado senior Dylan Bell became the third Texan above 17 feet this year with a 17-2.75 in second.

In the girls pole vault, Argyle (Argyle, Texas) senior Jessie Johnson was also short of her U.S. leading mark (13-6), but settled for victory with 13-1.5.

San Marcos (Texas) senior Allex Austin cleared 7-0.75 to win the high jump, just off his nation-leading 7-1. He came in at 6-0, which he made with the old scissors-kick style, and missed twice at 6-8. But those were his only misses until he went out at 7-3.

“I felt really good,” he said. “I changed my approach this week and feel like I’m faster. It’s now longer and wider, so I get more speed. This is a good facility and I like jumping here.”

US#1s were achieved, however, in all four medley relays. The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas) swept the girls SMR and DMR with marks of 3:59.23 and 12:00.64. The SMR saw Lindsay Wilken (25.9), Alexis Crowe (25.4), Kaitlynn Lindsey (57.3), and Katie Willard (2:10.2) combine for the win. “I’ve been thinking about this race for a while,” said Willard. “I was worried (Lancaster had a sizeable lead after 3 legs), but I just ran my own race (out in 62.3). With about 250 to go, I thought we had a good chance. I turned it on the last 150 when they stayed with me. I didn’t want another mishap (crossed the line 2nd at state, but disqualified for interference as the winner tried to pass in the last 50 meters).”

The Woodlands DMR team saw legs from Ashley Guidot (3:44.1), Michelle Creasman (62.8), Katie Willard (2:17.1) and Madi McLellan (4:56.7). Kingwood had a big lead after 3 legs, but McLellan went out in 68.8, and caught Sandi Raines from Kingwood the last 400. “I like to go out and chase people,” said McLellan. “The first 400 was fast, but I felt good. I wanted to get away from Courtney, who’d run so fast last week (Southlake Carroll’s Kreigshauser 4:57.71 last week, got the baton 3rd today).

“With about 300 to go, I felt like I had a good chance. We’ve been working on accelerations in practice this week so I treated it (last 300) like one.

Kingwood got the win in the boys’ SMR, with Justin Brinkley coming from behind with his 1:51.9 anchor to complete a 3:23.44 effort. With James Steptoe also having a 46.9 leg, the makings of a national championship contender are there.

Southlake Carroll, the NXN runner-ups with a 17:22 4x1600 under their belt this spring already, were the faves in the DMR and came through with a nation-leading 10:10.19. Said anchor Trevor Gilley, who got the baton with a good lead and ran 4:15.9: “It’s tough to run by yourself. I felt a lot better this week than last week (2nd at Jesuit-Sheaner). The wind wasn’t bad at all, especially since the track is pretty low and the stands block it. I’m running the 1600 tomorrow (state 4th as a soph in 4:09.37). I’m hoping we can dip under 4:10. I’d like to get a good time to qualify for some big post-season meets like the Dream Mile.”