CHARLESTON — Luke Vaughn’s goals are unchanged. The only difference for the Centennial High School senior is his position.
He had hoped to reach Saturday’s Class 2A finals in the throws as the hunted, the person to beat. Instead, when the finals start at 10 a.m., Vaughn will be the hunter.
He qualified fourth in the discus and fifth in the shot put during Friday’s preliminaries.
“I’d rather be at the top instead of having to get up there,” Vaughn said. “I’m a little disappointed in myself.”
His first throw in the discus (170 feet, 9 inches) was his best of the day, but it was well under the school record he established one week earlier (190-4) at the sectional.
“The warmups were fine,” Vaughn said. “I was in the 180s. I couldn’t get it in the meet. I was dipping my arm.”
In the shot put, his best attempt was his second one (55-03/4). He scratched on his final try, falling out of the ring after he released the 12-pound ball.
“I was looking to get at least 60 (feet),” Vaughn said. “I tried to put a little more effort into my third attempt and lost my balance.”
Besides competing for a state championship, Vaughn has other issues on his mind. He recently asked for his release from the letter of intent he signed with Ole Miss after the university’s throws coach was fired.
“I’m not worried about what the outcome will be,” Vaughn said. “I’ve put it out of my mind for now. God has a plan for me.”
While Vaughn wasn’t pleased by his performance in the first round at state, Chargers coach Greg Walters said, “He’s sitting in a good position. He didn’t have an incredibly great day, but he didn’t have a bad day.
“At this stage, it’s hard to relax.”
Vaughn is trying to become Centennial’s first three-time individual state track and field medalist. He was eighth last spring in the discus and seventh as a sophomore.
Walters sees no reason for concern as Vaughn enters the 12-person finals Saturday in both throws.
“We know from last week what he’s capable,” Walters said. “It’s a matter of getting the brain out of the way and letting the body take over.”
One mental barrier Friday was watching Sandwich’s Ryan Njegovan break the Class 2A record in the discus (188-4), which was 2 inches better than the previous IHSA standard. Vaughn is less than 3 feet behind the current discus runner-up entering the finals.
The 6-foot-7 senior has been back in competition less than a month after recovering from a broken right hand, which required surgery in March. He is still not 100 percent.
His wrist is “stiff,” he said. “I need more reps.”
He planned to spend the late afternoon Friday back at Centennial working on his form and technique.
The Chargers have had state medalists in the shot put and discus previously, but no one from the school — male or female — has ever placed in both the same year.
Vaughn is still in the hunt and wants to improve his position. He has three throws remaining.
JOHNNY LEVERENZ, Danville
The junior established himself as the favorite in the Class 3A 800 meters, running the fastest time in qualifications. Distance coach Todd Orvis said Leverenz can handle being the target. “He’s pretty low-key all the time and doesn’t get rattled,” he said.
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR, 1,600 relay
The foursome of Matt Chupp, Jordan Rock, Sam Hohlfelder and Andrew Shroyer saved its best for the last, breaking its school record (3:22.87) for the second time in a week in the meet-ending four-lap relay. They qualified third in Class 2A.
LUKE VAUGHN, Centennial
The Chargers senior ranks among the top five in Class 2A in the shot put and discus after the preliminaries. His career bests in both events rank among the top four all time on The News-Gazette area Honor Roll performance list.