National discus record setter Shelbi Vaughan of
Mansfield Legacy (Texas)
is a muscular 6-foot-2, and it's all girlie.
"Her (track) shoes have little gems and are shiny. We call her and Kayla Taylor the Throws Divas," said coach Lacy Beckler.
Volunteer coach Ed Berry, who specializes in the discus and shot put, calls her "extremely outgoing. She is all girl - her hair and nails always have to be just right. She is vivacious, bubbly, driven and wants to win when it comes to track."
Vaughan does not disagree, admitting, "I like it (being called a diva). I think it's cute. Coach Berry always calls me 'The Princess' because I always have bows in my hair and my favorite color is pink."
But when it comes to sports, she overwhelms opponents with her enormous ability. A fierce competitor, she hates to lose.
During the recent Texas Relays, she broke the national discus record with a tremendous throw of 191 feet, 6 inches. The record of 190-3 had stood since 2009. It was a huge jump considering her personal record had been 176-9 and that had been established only one week earlier.
"I wasn't thinking about breaking the national record at all. I wanted to break the Texas Relays record (169)," she said. "It (the record throw) was effortless. I felt it could be in the 170s. I was in shock and just froze (when she heard the distance). I just kept smiling and hugged my coach and my mom."
Beckler recalled, "It was a perfect day - not much wind. The Texas Relays always puts on more pressure and she rose to the occasion. When they announced it, she freaked out."
However, the record should not have been as shocking to insiders who had watched Vaughan fire the discus 195-8 and 195-3 in practice sessions two weeks earlier.
Vaughan also won the Texas Relays shot put for the second year in a row with a toss of 48-11.
Berry was quick to point out that a sore right shoulder kept her from working out with the shot put during the entire week leading up to the Texas Relays. He also explained that the throwing motion is different and does not affect the discus.
Vaughan added, "I have a really high pain tolerance and I don't like injuries to hold me back from anything."
Since T-ball at age 3, Vaughan has been heavily involved in sports. She played basketball until her sophomore year and has played volleyball most of her life. In fact, she will attend Texas A&M University in the fall on a volleyball scholarship, but she also will double in track. She carries a 3.7 GPA and will major in education with the goal of being a teacher and coach at either the middle or high school level.
Last fall she led the volleyball team in kills (579), blocks (70) and aces (51) while placing second in digs (367).
Vaughan actually started high school as a freshman at Azle (Texas)
where she had a best discus throw of 133-2 at the Class 4A regional. Her sophomore year she won the 4A state discus crown with a throw of 144-8 and was second in the shot put at 44-3.
Then her mother, Rhonda Walker, got a new job and they moved to the Mansfield area. She was happily received by volleyball and track coaches and made a quick adjustment to her new teammates.
Stepping up to stronger competition, Vaughan again won the discus title, this time with a Class 5A record throw of 161 feet. She also was second in the shot put at 44-11 1/4.
"That was pretty exciting," she said. "Not many people have a chance to win state two years in a row. I like the excitement of it (pressure)."
Last summer she won the discus at the USATF Outdoor Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., with a throw of 165-5 and the Pan American Junior Championships in Miramar, Fla., with a throw of 174-3. She also placed third (172-6) during the IAAF World Youth Championships in France.
Concerning her first international competition, Vaughan said, "It was exciting, but I was a little upset because I had a winning throw (176-5 1/4), but they don't count throws in the preliminaries."
As she completes her prep career, Vaughan probably is going to accomplish a personal record in the shot put, too, because she has uncorked a 52-foot throw in practice. Doing weight lifting for the first time and eating healthier have enabled her to make big jumps in all of her events.
Another unexpected dimension is her participation in the 4x100 relay. She has surprising speed for her size.
"Because I'm a thrower, people don't expect me to run," she conceded. "I love to run."
Beckler pointed out, "She runs the second leg. She takes that baton and you can hear people in the stands going 'Oohh and aahh.' She's extremely powerful."
Meanwhile, Berry will continue to work with her in the weight events.
"We work primarily on rhythm, timing and consistency," he said. "She's got to keep progressing. She's got a long way to go, but she's on course for what I have envisioned for her. She loves big meets. She loves big crowds."
The Texas teen has big goals of throwing longer than 200 feet this year and taking a good shot at making the USA Olympic team.
She is so much more than a great athlete, though, according to Beckler.
"She does a real good job of leading our team with her work ethic and them experiencing her success," Beckler praised. "I push her just like the other kids. Shelbi really inspires us. Most kids at her level are kind of cocky, but she always strives to get better. She is just so humble. The more she stays humble, the more she is going to learn and the more she is going to grow."
Vaughan takes leadership seriously.
She said, "I love being with my team. Whenever they need somebody to talk to ... I love being able to mentor younger kids and give them advice."
This mentoring spills over to special education students whom she helps teach computer skills to during Partners in Technology class.
Beckler said proudly, "She's especially compassionate in special-needs kids' classes. She just loves them to death. She goes above and beyond and wants to make a difference. I have no doubt that Shelbi is going to use the platform (of sports) to change other people's lives. She's got such a great heart."
Vaughan acknowledged, "It's wonderful. Every time I went into class with a huge smile. They made my day."
Oh, yes, there's one more dimension to Shelbi Vaughan. This one might also be a surprise - she is a big practical joker.
The two-sport star confesses that she, indeed, loves practical jokes.
"I do, definitely, especially with my coach," she affirmed. "Me and my brother (Cody) are goofy."
Last year on April Fools Day, Shelbi and school principal Louie Trammell came into Beckler's classroom with sad looks on their faces and she feared the worst - that her star was going to be suspended for disciplinary reasons on the eve of the district track meet.
"She just looked so distraught," Beckler described. "She was crying and acted like she was really upset. He (the principal) hands me a paper and shakes his head. They got me all worked up for four or five minutes."
Then there was the day before last year's regional when Beckler confiscated all of the girls' cell phones so they could get a good night's sleep. All 14 of them set their cell phone alarms so they would go off periodically throughout the night.
"I was so tired the next day," Beckler sighed. "If they ever do that again, I'll throw them all in the toilet."
Beckler is going to miss a once-in-a-lifetime athlete when Vaughan graduates this spring, but she may have a more tranquil season in 2013.
"There definitely won't be any more practical jokes," she vowed. "The other girls will be too scared."