But it wasn’t until Vaughn lost that Meitin realized just how special the runner was.
“He hates to lose more than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Meitin said. “He takes losing or a bad performance harder than anybody we’ve ever had. It drives him to work hard. So his practice efforts are tremendous, because he knows what it feels like not to do well in competition, and he can’t stand it.”
This season, Vaughn was often the one forcing others to take in defeat. He closed his Lakeside career by finishing fourth (16:25.98) in the Class AAAA state meet, helping the Panthers to a third-place finish and earning Augusta Chronicle boys cross country runner of the year honors.
Vaughn didn’t lose to anyone in his classification until the state meet, when Lakeside jumped from sixth in 2010 to third this year as Vaughn improved 17 spots from his No. 21 finish as a junior.
It was a continuation of progress for Vaughn since he battled injury his sophomore year. He was born with arteriovenous malformation, which involved blood vessels tied together and wrapped around the Achilles tendon.
With surgeries and a procedure that had an alcohol injection get rid of any other problematic blood vessels, Vaughn had to return to form.
Though he couldn’t do full workouts, he kept at it, and in the second meet of his junior year, he ran a 15:53. The strong runs weren’t done, and Vaughn leaves Lakeside with numerous first-place performances and course records.
“All great athletes make their teammates better,” Meitin said. “He made our team better. His example and his leadership drove our whole boys team to work harder.”
Vaughn, who initially wanted to be a sprinter, started competing in middle school.
He won the first meet he ever ran, and often repeated the top placement showings in high school.
Meitin thinks Vaughn’s winning ways aren’t finished. With Vaughn’s talent and drive, Meitin believes Vaughn could run competitively for as long as he wants.
He’s already visited Kennesaw State and Augusta State, and he’s hoping to visit Georgia in January.
“I’m definitely going to miss it next year,” Vaughn said about Lakeside. “It was weird running the state meet, thinking of it like, ‘This is my last time.’ It flew by. I’m going to miss it.”