As a freshman, the first time Shaton Vaughn tried going over a hurdle at a Northrop track practice, he wiped out. He had never tried it before and vowed he'd never try it again.
So he became a very capable sprinter, just missing advancing to state in the 200 meters as a freshman and as a sophomore. But then graduated teammate and state finalist hurdler Bijay Stephens got in Vaughn's ear. Shaton, he'd say, all the top hurdlers have graduated and you can dominate and go to state if you'll give it a chance! And Stephens wouldn't give up.
"All he had to do was get over the hurdles because he was faster than anybody else in the field," Stephens said.
Stephens convinced Vaughn and worked with him throughout last summer, but Vaughn still had to convince Bruins coach Fred Blanks, who was frankly surprised and skeptical when Vaughn showed up to try out as a hurdler during the indoor season.
"I said if anybody wants to try out for hurdles meet me Saturday at 11 a.m., and about 10 guys showed up," Blanks recalled, "and then Shaton. `Why are you here? You're our top sprinter.' "
"But I can hurdle, Coach," Vaughn said.
Despite shaking his head, Blanks set up a hurdle and then watched Vaughn flow over it gracefully.
"And he had good form!" Blanks said. "Then he went over two, and I said, 'Wow!' The other guys just stopped and he went over three or four of them, boom, boom, boom and boom!"
And then Vaughn just kept going boom, boom, boom all season, advancing to the state finals where he finished second in the 110 hurdles and won the state title in the 300 hurdles, beating Stephens' best time and breaking the school record set by Charles Bailey. Now Vaughn is The News-Sentinel's Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
"I just couldn't believe it," Blanks said. "I would never have thought he would have done what he did this year. Every meet he just got better and better."
Vaughn gives all the credit to Stephens and hurdles coach Charlie Whitfield.
"He's very easy to coach because he adapts to everything and he's probably the most humble person I've ever met," said Stephens who competes at Purdue. "You wouldn't know he's as good as he is if someone didn't tell you."
In fact, when Vaughn finished his winning efforts at the regional, he always had a little smirk on his face, not because he was cocky, but maybe because he saw the irony in his performances. He wasn't sure whether to believe what he was doing, either.
"It was a me problem because I didn't really want to try hurdles again after my freshman year," Vaughn said. "When Bijay started working with me, that's when things just started to click. I starting trusting myself and believing I could actually do it. It was just a matter of getting my steps right for the 300 hurdles and not slowing down between hurdles in the 110 hurdles."
Now Blanks calls Stephens after every meet to share his glee, and Stephens even joked that he wanted a state championship ring after Vaughn gets his. Now he and everyone else thinks Vaughn has a chance to continue to get better and compete in college.
"I always tell him he's continuing to do stuff that I could never do," Stephens said.
But before college, Vaughn has some pretty good goals for his senior season.
"First, I want to race Bijay to see if I can get him," he said with a smile. "Then I'm going to go after the state records."
Now those things are going to take some real convincing coaching.
For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.
2017 All-Area Boys track team
Shaton Vaughn - Northrop
Jalen Royal - Northrop
Justin Becker - Carroll
Connor Tapp - Carroll
Cole Powers - Carroll
Jordan Schmeling - Carroll
Cameron Shank - Carroll
Sam Wood - Churubusco
Isaac Brown - DeKalb
Elijah Chesterman - Huntington North
James Gardner - New Haven
Curtis Blackwell - Norwell
Jesse Hamlin - Snider
Bailey McIntire - South Adams
Zach Daniels - Wayne
Craig Young - Wayne