02 Jan Vaught taking on leadership of Eagles
by Levi Gilbert
The role of leadership can often be heavy, and McKenna Vaught is learning valuable lessons in her junior season at Conway Christian. And they’ve been lessons worth learning.
“Last season, I had a tendency to sort of sit back and depend on the seniors, specifically my other post player, Stormy Stacks, to take charge and score when needed,” Vaught said. “With all of them gone, I have realized that I need to step up and fill that role to help my team in any way I can. After graduating five seniors last year, this year is sort of a rebuilding year for our team.
“We are working hard, learning to play well together, using each other’s strengths and continuing to improve throughout the season. The early part of the season has been somewhat rough, but we are looking to improve each week and peak toward the end of the season.”
Vaught, a junior forward for the Eagles, was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 34 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Conway Ortho and Sports Medicine Center, Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. Vaught was nominated by her head coach, Trey Lynch.
“McKenna is a strong finisher at the rim and a good rebounder,” Lynch wrote in his nomination. “She has a solid mid-range game and is an extremely competitive, vocal leader. She was the only non-senior to see significant action last year. She played a blue-collar role as the tertiary scoring option.
“This year, she’s been asked to carry a much larger load as the only returner with high school game experience. She’s our primary scoring option, anchors the middle of our defense, hits double digit rebounds every night out and serves as the leader for a very inexperienced team.”
The change of moving from an underclassmen contributor to the primary leader has been difficult at times for Vaught, and it has permeated all throughout her life — not just with basketball.
“The past several months, overall, have been a major challenge in my life,” Vaught said. “I have had a complete change in character and learned many lessons. I have learned that your character and reputation are some of the most valuable things in life. The way you conduct yourself and carry yourself through certain situations affects everyone around you, whether you think it does or not. I have worked very hard to become a leader and a strong Christian example in everything I do — on the court, in the classroom and in my life.”
This week, Conway Christian (3-9) plays host to fellow Conway rival St. Joseph.
“St. Joseph always has a good team, and they always bring their A game when they play us, so we have to be ready with ours,” Vaught said. “I think being the only two private schools in Conway creates both a sense of connection and sense of competition between us. The games against St. Joe are always some of the biggest and most hyped at our school. Everyone gets excited and works hard to get ready for it. I feel like our friendly rivalry always brings out the best in both teams every time we play.”
Vaught is a multi-sport athlete for the Eagles. She’s earned all-state honors the last three years for tennis. She also competes in volleyball and soccer.
“I have grown up playing all of these sports my entire life,” Vaught said. “Growing up, some people were surprised at how many sports I played. When asked which was my favorite sport, I would always respond, ‘Whichever one is in season!’ My parents allowed me to try a lot of different sports as I was growing up, and I loved them all. One benefit of attending a small school is that I get the chance to play all of the sports I love, without having to pick and choose.”
Outside of athletics, Vaught is involved in the Robinson and Center Church of Christ youth group. She also participates in Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society, Spanish club, drama club and the school praise team.
Vaught and the Eagles play host to St. Joseph at 5:30 p.m. Friday.