The Decade’s Top 10 High School Girls

She went on to become prep AOY again the next year, but Sydney McLaughlin’s signature moment was probably making the Olympic team as a junior. (MIKE SCOTT)

TURNING PRO EARLY had a major impact on the girls’ side in the Teens. The AOY choices of ’13, ’14 & ’15 all prematurely gave up HS eligibility as did the ’15 runner-up after the next year’s indoor season. Sydney McLaughlin, on the other hand, stayed the course and had the unique feat of making the Top 10 all 4 years, so our panel of prep experts gave her a narrow edge over Mary Cain as the overall leader. Here’s our Top 10:

1. Sydney McLaughlin (Union Catholic, Scotch Plains, New Jersey)

No. 8 as a frosh, No. 4 as a soph and then a pair of No. 1s in ’16 & ’17, the latter unanimous, McLaughlin was all over the AOY balloting during her entire high school career. So too was her progression as the class recordholder in the 400H starting with 55.63 as a frosh and 55.28 as a soph. Her junior (54.46 & 54.15 ) and senior (54.03 & 53.82) years produced not only the class records but also a pair of HSRs as well. Additionally, the 53.82 was a World Junior Record. As a 12th-grader she also ran the one and only 300H race of her life, crushing the national record with her 38.90. Overall, she racked up 7 All-America honors, topped by her 4 No. 1s in the 400H. She also earned a No. 3 in the 100H as a frosh and in the 400 had a No. 2 (junior) and No. 1 (senior). Perhaps most memorably, as a junior she made the Olympic Team and advanced as far as the semis in Rio.

2. Mary Cain (Bronxville, New York)

After finishing a strong No. 2 in the ’12 AOY balloting, Cain was a unanimous selection as No. 1 the next year, as a junior. That marked the third year in a row that she had set a class record in the 1500, her 4:10.77 HSR & 4:04.62 HSR following a 4:11.01 HSR as a soph and 4:17.84 as a frosh. In her AOY year she went on to claim 9th at the World Championships. She also found time to turn in some high-end 800 running, lowering the HSR to 1:59.51. Her ’13 indoor campaign was also remarkable: 4:11.72 iHSR, 4:28.25 iHSR, 9:04.51 iHSR, 9:38.68 iHSR. The mile and 2M times both rate as the absolute HSRs as well. Cain spent what would have been her senior year of eligibility as a pro.

3. Vashti Cunningham (Gorman, Las Vegas, Nevada)

The best prep high jumper ever didn’t claim an AOY title, but she did have an honor none of the others could claim: a World Championships gold medal. In Cunningham’s case, it was of the indoor variety, and after that success in March of her senior year she turned pro, sacrificing an outdoor campaign that may well have seen her beat McLaughlin for the AOY crown. She had also been the AOY runner-up—by a single point—in her junior year after No. 8 as a soph. She produced the 7 highest jumps in prep history, topped by her HSR 6-6¼.

4. Shelbi Vaughan (Legacy, Mansfield, Texas)

The unanimous ’12 AOY went on a record rampage in her senior year, upping the national record 4 times with throws of 191-6, 191-11, 193-11 & 198-9. She produced the No. 4 throw in history, 195-9 to take 4th in the Olympic Trials, missing a spot on Team USA by just 21 inches. Overall, that campaign saw her produce the 10 farthest throws ever.

5. Alyssa Wilson (Donovan, Toms River, New Jersey)

The ’18 AOY runner-up (after a No. 3 as a junior), Wilson left her fingerprints all over the All-Am throws charts. In the shot she was No. 3 as a soph, then tacked on a pair of No. 1s (with HSRs of 57-1¼ & 58-1 as a senior). In the discus she was No. 4 as a junior and No. 1 as a senior), and in the discus twice No. 2.

6. Briana Williams (Northeast, Oakland Park, Florida)

The No. 5 AOY in the ’18 voting as a soph, the Jamaican international claimed the ’19 crown after a season which saw her lower the national record to 10.94. She also produced the Nos. 3 (11.01), 4 (11.02A), =6 (11.10) & =12 (11.11A) times ever. Her 22.50 as a soph made her the No. 5 ever at the half-lap.

7. Anna Hall (Valor, Highlands Ranch, Colorado)

Versatility was the name of the game for Hall, who claimed national records in the heptathlon as both a junior (5798) and senior (5829). She was the No. 1 All-America both years, of course, and added A-A spots in the high jump as both a junior (No. 2) and senior (No. 5). Her two AOY finishes were as No. 3 in ’18 and No. 2 in ’19.

8. Katelyn Tuohy (North Rockland, Thiells, New York)

Hampered by illness/injury in her junior year, Tuohy was “only” No. 8 in ’19’s AOY balloting. But that combined with a fabulous soph campaign earned her No. 8. The No. 1 All-Am choice in both the mile and 2M that year she claimed indoor HSRs in the 2000 (5:57.56), 3000 (9:01.81) & 5000 (15:37.12). That last time also rates as the absolute HSR.

9. tie, Kaylin Whitney (East Ridge, Clermont, Florida) & Candace Hill (Rockdale, Conyers, Georgia)

If you want to talk precocious sprinters be sure to save a spot in the conversation for these two, who in parallel successive years (Whitney ’14, Hill ’15) became AOYs as 16-year-old sophs. And both claimed the national record in the 100 (11.10 for Whitney, 10.98 for Hill). As well, Whitney was the World Junior 200 winner (and bronze medalist in the 100), while the next year Hill was the winner of the 100 and 200 golds at the World Youth Championships. Finally each gave up her junior and senior years of eligibility, turning pro. ◻︎