‘Pure running talent’: Young's big year leads to male Runner of the Year honors
by Nick Birdsong
Jan 30, 2012 | 2391 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alec Young. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
Alec Young. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star
Admittedly, Alec Young is a little crazy. And that’s alright with him.

The way he sees it, it’s a quintessential characteristic for his sport.

“I like to say that every runner is crazy just for running,” Young said. “... and I’m a little crazy.”

Young, a junior at Oxford High School, won his first race and broke the 17-minute mark this past season on his way to being named The Star’s 2011 Boys Calhoun County Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Teammates Jacob Schywn, the Calhoun County meet champion, and Landon Delozier join him on the all-county team.

“He’s the most talented kid, as far as pure running talent, that I’ve ever coached,” Oxford coach Jim Presnell said. “He does some things in practice and in training that I don’t know if I’ve ever had anyone do. Alec has a rare combination of endurance and a surprising amount of foot speed.”

Young placed first in the 5th Annual Waffle House/Yellow Jacket Invitational with a time of 17.22.80 mid-October. Before that, in September, he set a personal record, running a 16:44.39 in the Scottsboro Invitational.

It’s a feat he’d repeat twice more during the season. At the 20th Annual St. Vincent-Husky Challenge a couple weeks later, he ran a 16:59. 81 to place 15th. He did it again, running a 16:55.43 in the Jesse Owens Classic.

He placed 10th with a 17:03.34 in the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 6A, Section 2, meet and 47th overall at the Class 6A state meet with a 17.24.61.

“It’s a goal of every runner to break 17 and to win a race,” Young said. “But, honestly, I’m more proud of breaking 17 than I am of just winning a race. It’s something that you just have to experience for yourself. It feels great.”

How Young began running in the first place is a bit odd, but maybe not crazy. He was walking out of the gym toward the bus one day as a seventh-grader when he had an epiphany.

“I said, ‘I should do track,” he recalled. “Running doesn’t seem very hard. That will be fun’ … Yeah, I was wrong.”

Presnell said the quest to excel as a distance runner is a 365-day-a-year commitment. Along with dedication and determination, it also takes skill and strategy. Wisely crafting an offseason training routine is just as important as any work a runner puts in during the season.

“We call it building your base,” Presnell said. “You want to get your mileage in the summer so when the actual season starts, you’re not saying, ‘We need to get 60 miles in this week.”

Young attributed his development to the instruction he’s received from coach Presnell.

“With coach Presnell, I have advanced farther, faster than I have with other coach that I’ve ever had before,” he said. “And it’s not for a lack for effort, it’s that he really knows what he’s doing.”

It’s a grind Young is wholeheartedly committed to. Apparently, the success is worth far more than the pain of preparation. Even after his initial romanticized views of what running would be like, he never questioned whether he’d stick with it.

“Why not?” he said.

Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.