‘My turn’

Mother, real es­tate agent and run­ner Sara Vaughn jug­gles fam­ily, work and train­ing — and qual­i­fies for world cham­pi­onships

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PERSPECTIVES - BY PAT GRA­HAM

Her train­ing runs in­volved push­ing a jog­ging stroller loaded with enough snacks to keep her tod­dler con­tent. Her core work­outs fea­tured ex­er­cises as her kids climbed on her back or even joined her . Her sched­ule some­times got thrown off for potty train­ing.

This is the pro­gram that al­lowed Sara Vaughn, mother of three, real es­tate agent and bur­geon­ing 1,500-me­ter run­ner at 31 years old, to earn a spot for the world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don this week.

She even bor­rowed a line from her youngest daugh­ter for in­spi­ra­tion at U.S. cham­pi­onships in June with the third and fi­nal spot on the line: “My turn.”

“My daugh­ter doesn’t share very well and when some­one has a toy or some­thing that she wants, she’ll say, ‘My turn,”’ said Sara, who’s coached by her hus­band, Brent. “In that mo­ment, it made so much sense. I saw a cou­ple of women in front of me that had some­thing I wanted and I was tired of not fin­ish­ing in the top three. It was my turn.”

A stand­out run­ner out of high school in Ne­braska, Sara com­peted at Vir­ginia be­fore trans­fer­ring to Colorado. She got preg­nant with Kiki dur­ing her sopho­more year and later be­came an All-Amer­i­can in cross coun­try. She and Brent — a for­mer run­ner at Colorado — were mar­ried on July 28, 2007. They just cel­e­brated their 10year an­niver­sary while train­ing in Lon­don. And soon, they will be joined by their three kids — Kiki, 10, Calia, 7, and Cas­sidy, who turns 2 on Satur­day — a day af­ter the open­ing round of her mom’s event.

“This sum­mer, a fam­ily trip to Europe — that’s some­thing we never would’ve dreamed of with­out this run­ning thing,” said Sara, who will head to Paris and Barcelona with the crew for some sight­see­ing af­ter worlds.

To think, she al­most stepped away. Heavy em­pha­sis on al­most. With each preg­nancy, re­sum­ing her run­ning ca­reer be­came in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult. Last sum­mer at the Olympic Tri­als — 11 months af­ter giv­ing birth to Cas­sidy — Sara fin­ished sev­enth. Enough al­most seemed to be enough. She was largely un­spon­sored and con­stantly con­cerned about spend­ing money for train­ing out of the fam­ily’s fi­nances, which, for years, were solely based off Brent’s run­ning deal with a shoe com­pany.

“I had a hard time per­form­ing well when our liveli­hood de­pended on that per­for­mance.”

That mo­ti­vated her to be­come a real es­tate agent in 2013, just to bring in extra funds. On top of that, Brent opened a con­struc­tion busi­ness about 3 1/2 years ago.

“Now that we have in­come and sta­bil­ity, for me, it brought a lot of the joy back into run­ning,” Sara said as the cou­ple re­cently bought their “for­ever home” in Boul­der. “I can en­joy com­pet­ing with­out stress­ing about whether we can pay the mort­gage or for swim­ming lessons. I don’t have that guilt that goes with run­ning.”

Brent’s no­ticed a dif­fer­ence, too, with her fit­ness at an­other level af­ter not mak­ing the team for the Rio de Janeiro Games. She ran a per­sonal-best time of 4 min­utes, 6.64 sec­onds on June 10.

“This is just the tip of the ice­berg,” Brent said. “She has plenty more space to im­prove over the com­ing years.”

Brent took over coach­ing his wife ear­lier this sea­son. First, though, they had to es­tab­lish ground rules. At home , he’s Brent. At the track, he’s coach — and what Coach Brent says, goes.

“If I start to com­plain or whine about a work­out, he won’t let that charm work,” Sara said, laugh­ing.

Fre­quently, Sara will load up Cas­sidy in the baby jog­ger to squeeze in be­tween five and nine miles, when the other two are at school.

“I have a love/hate re­la­tion­ship with that stroller,” she said. “I would much pre­fer never to run with it, be­cause it adds extra stress and it changes my form a lit­tle bit. But it’s such a tool when in a pinch, which is half the time.”

Baby sit­ters, friends, fam­ily, DVDs — to en­ter­tain the kids as she stretches — and the drop-in sit­ter ser­vice at her gym have proven in­valu­able as well.

“It takes a lot of co-op­er­a­tion from my kids, too, to be un­der­stand­ing and for­giv­ing and sup­port­ive of their par­ents,” Sara said. “I’m trav­el­ling a lot. I miss recitals ev­ery once in a while. They have been awe­some and sup­port­ive of their mom, which is re­ally help­ful.”

At na­tion­als, her game plan was el­e­men­tary: Stay calm on the first few laps, stay alert in the mid­dle and stay ag­gres­sive on the last lap. The mantra “my turn” popped into her mind with the finish line in sight. Her daugh­ter’s say­ing was the per­fect mo­ti­va­tor.

“I was so happy for her. I didn’t know how to con­tain my­self,” Brent said . “It was quite a mo­ment.”

So was this: Call­ing home to tell their kids the news about mom. Each had a dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion.

“My old­est, who’s been around the sport for a long time, she kind of un­der­stands the sig­nif­i­cance of fi­nally mak­ing the team,” re­called Sara, who’s cre­at­ing a fund to help un­der­grad­u­ate par­ents so they can earn their de­grees. “My mid­dle one, a lit­tle less so, but she does un­der­stand that it meant she got to go on a cool, ex­cit­ing trip to Lon­don this sum­mer.

“And my youngest one, she’s like, ‘Hey, that’s my mom on TV!’ She was pretty ex­cited.”

Mom’s suc­cess wasn’t the only big news around the Vaughn house­hold in re­cent weeks. Cas­sidy is getting the hang of potty train­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing feels re­ally set­tled,” Sara said. “We have life stress, nor­mal stress, but not like we did when all we were do­ing was run­ning. Not that life is eas­ier — it’s just much less stress­ful.”

AP PHOTO

Sara Vaughn poses for a photo in Ned­er­land, Colo. Vaughn, a real es­tate agent, mother of three and ath­lete, has earned a spot at the world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don this week.

AP PHOTO

In this June 24, 2017, photo, Sara Vaughn, left, cel­e­brates af­ter she fin­ished third in the women’s 1,500 me­tres at the U.S. Track and Field Cham­pi­onships in Sacra­mento, Calif., as first-place fin­isher Jenny Simp­son watches.

AP PHOTO

In this July 10, 2016, photo, Sara Vaughn, front right, leads dur­ing the fi­nal of the women’s 1,500 me­tres with Lau­ren Johnson, left, dur­ing the Olympic track and field tri­als in Eu­gene, Ore.

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