The last jump, oh, the last jump was for his grandmother.
“Everything I do,” Dyshon Vaughn said, “I dedicate to her.”
The Career High senior was sitting in third place at the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet at The Armory in New York. Saturday already was going to be a good day. With one dash, one leap, one sweet landing, it would become an unforgettable one.
“I was just grateful to be out there with all these great jumpers from around the U.S.,” Vaughn said Wednesday. “The guy before me didn’t beat me, so I’m guessing I secured third place. At that point, last jump, I thought, ‘Just give it all you have.’”
Vaughn hadn’t had a chance to practice Friday night. An indoor facility wasn’t available around New Haven. He said his coach Kareem Jackson had guided him through the day, working a little together before the meet. Vaughn would jump 23-8 to push into the finals, just shy of his personal best.
Later, Jackson would tell Vaughn he took off behind the board on that sixth and final jump. Still, the height was good.
And it felt great,” he said.
When he landed he found out how great. Dyshon Vaughn was the national indoor long jump champion at 24 feet, 5 1/2inches (7.45 meters). The jump tied Jeremiah Willis of Cicero, N.Y. Their second-best jumps of 7.11 meters also had been equal. Vaughn’s third-best of 7.10 topped Willis’ 6.68.
“I was really excited,” Vaughn said. “I gave my coach a big hug. I’m his first boys All-American.”
Vaughn posed for a few photos. He did an interview. He couldn’t wait to call his grandmother Phyllis, the woman who had raised him since he was 1, starting under the most of tragic of circumstances. Vaughn knew she’d be excited. He hoped she wouldn’t be so excited that she’d have a heart attack.
The surface story with Dyshon Vaughn is a good one. He didn’t start long jumping until his sophomore year. He joined the outdoor track team in the spring of 2016 to improve his cardio for basketball. He loves the game. He played it since the fourth grade, played varsity as a sophomore and would again as a junior.
Vaughn knew he had hops. He didn’t know there was another avenue to use them.
“Honestly, I never knew that they even had field events,” he said. “I was going to do sprints. I never knew there was a long jump.”
By the end of that sophomore year, folks around the state knew him. He jumped 22-4 1/2 to win the Class M meet and took third in the state open. He also was second in the Class M triple jump. Colleges began to reach out. As a junior, he jumped 23-2 1/4 and won the Class S long and triple jumps. He finished seventh at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor with a triple jump of 45-13/4. He decided to forego hoops for indoor track as a senior. Good choice.
“Basketball is a fun sport, but getting into schools is important, education is important,” he said. “Basketball I can always play on the side, together with my friends. Being as gifted as I am in this sport, I felt like I should take this further and not chase a sport that’s not coming to me.”
And Career? Yes, he said, the magnet school in New Haven has been good for Dyshon Vaughn.
“My mom attended Career,” he said. “That’s the reason I decided to come here.”
Vaughn didn’t say much about his mom on this day and, to be honest, it wasn’t until I went back and read about Lakeia Vaughn in old New Haven Register stories that I came to understand the depth of her son’s story.
Lakeia was on her way to get some fried dough at a nearby carnival when she stopped her car to talk with a friend on Winthrop Avenue in New Haven in the summer of 2000. A white Ford Taurus pulled alongside. Shots, evidently intended for that friend, were fired. Lakeia Vaughn was hit in the head, a young mom a month away from graduating from hairdressers school was left dead. So was Lamont Brockenberry, who was on a nearby porch. The friend did not cooperate with the police. It wasn’t until 2011 the cold case was solved.
“My grandmother took me in, has taken care of me my whole life,” Vaughn said. “I give her credit for everything. She has always been there to support and motivate me. She always makes sure I’m on top of things.
“She spoils me a little bit too much. I’ve got to tell her sometimes, you can’t spoil me this much because when I get out in the real world it’s not going to be this easy. She does such a great job. though.”
Vaughn talked about working at Holiday Hill in Prospect to save money. He said he was able to put a down payment of $6,000 on an $18,000 2015 Mazda5, nice wheels for a first car.
“But she has been helping me pay off the car and it’s more than halfway,” he said. “This is beyond the track stuff, she’s doing it out of love. I appreciate and love her so much.
“When I was little she’d get me everything I want. If I cried for it, she’d feed into it, which was good in the moment for me. But growing up, I’m not to going to have everything I want and she started being a little stricter as I got older. I guess she saw my mother and me. It was just kind of hard for her to say no.”
The good news is the spoiled boy didn’t spoil. He gets it. And now the calls come. From UConn, from Southern Illinois, from Florida, Iowa and Colorado State. Since Saturday, they have picked up on momentum through Facebook and Instagram.
“How close the school is, I think that will have a lot to do with my decision,” Vaughn said. “A lot of kids want to leave and go for off to college and it’s good to have a lot of experiences. But with the impact my grandmother has had on my life, it’s hard to go too far. I want to be at a reasonable distance where I could drive or take a quick flight to get back to her.
“Her brothers did track, so they understand how big what happened is for me. She knows it’s a big thing to come in No. 1 in the country in anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. She supports me because she knows how important it is to me.”
Lakeia Vaughn’s boy grew up a national champion. It would be her mom that made sure he grew up to be a man.