McLaughlin grew up in Dunellen, a borough in Middlesex County, New Jersey. On Wednesday, community members beamed with joy following the win.
"The fact that she beat a world record and beat her own world record," neighbor Lizzy Burr said. "There is something in her that nobody else has."
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"We were screaming our heads off," family friend Zachary Newsom said. "It was absolutely awesome to see her just crush it."
McLaughlin graduated from Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains in 2017. Mike McCabe, her high school track coach, said she dreamed of being an Olympic champion and had no doubt she was going to get there.
"A phenomenal athlete from the beginning. Hard worker, discipline, always at practice," McCabe said. "She just progressed so fast that I did think that she would get to this point."
Sister Percylee Hart, McLaughlin's principal, said her humility and kindness made her stand out.
"It's not just about being the best athlete you are," Hart said. "It's about being the best person you can be."