Jason Young’s been good and lucky — good enough to make the U.S. Olympic team, lucky enough that he doesn’t have to compete until Aug. 6.
That means Young can relax and really enjoy the opening ceremonies today in London.
“A lot of the athletes competing at the beginning of the games are not going to have a chance to walk in the ceremonies, because it takes a lot out of you,” the former Texas Tech athlete and assistant coach said. “It’s a long event. You’re on your feet for six to eight hours.
“It’s a big deal, but at the same time you’ve got to go get the job done (in competition). I’m lucky, because my competition is 10 days after the actual ceremony. So I’m going to go in there and have a great time.”
The 31-year-old Young, who still lives in Lubbock, qualified in the discus for his first Olympic team. He is one of more than a dozen track and field athletes in London who are either current or former team members at Texas Tech, South Plains College or Wayland Baptist.
The track and field competition unfolds from Aug. 3-12.
Among those who have the best chance to medal or at least make the finals in their events are South Plains and Tech graduate Sally Kipyego, SPC exes Rondell Bartholomew and Renny Quow, former Tech all-Americans Michael Mathieu and Shereefa Lloyd and SPC/Tech ex Andrae Williams.
Five of the six have Olympic and/or World Championships medals, and Bartholomew ran sixth in the 400 meters at last year’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, as a 21-year-old fresh out of SPC.
Kipyego, who now trains in Eugene, Ore., won silver in the 10,000 meters at Daegu. Now 26, the nine-time NCAA champion for Tech qualified for London in two distance events.
“Sally has a chance to medal in the 10K and the 5,000,” Tech coach Wes Kittley said.
Quow, 24, ran on the bronze medal 1,600-meter relay of Trinidad and Tobago four months ago at the IAAF indoor World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Lloyd, 30, won bronze in the Beijing Olympics with the Jamaican women’s 1,600 relay team.
Williams, 29, and Mathieu, 28, have each won Olympic and World Championships silver medals on the Bahamas’ 1,600 relay. Mathieu qualified for London in the 200 and the 400, as well as being in the relay pool. He ran a personal-record 20.16 in the 200 meters in May.
Young finished 10th in the discus at last year’s World Championships, where he was the only American to make the finals and threw 207 feet, 4 inches. The two-time U.S. outdoor runner-up has a personal record of 214-2 and expects to be in the hunt if he throws in the range of 213 to 215 feet.
“There’s probably about 35, 40 guys who think they have a shot at being in the final,” Young said, “and there’s probably about 20 that actually think they can get a medal, including me. All of them have thrown at those distances. The thing that’s important is what you do when you get there.”
Whereas a half dozen athletes with area ties have competed on the world stage, six others ran for college teams this year: all-American hurdlers Jamele Mason and Shane Brathwaite for Tech; Trevor Mackey, Sparkle McKnight and Janeil Bellille on South Plains’ national championship teams; and Janelle Redhead with Wayland.
Mason and Brathwaite would have to make it through three rounds in their events — Mason in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles and Brathwaite in the 110-meter high hurdles. Round 1 is Aug. 3, the semifinals Aug. 4 and the finals Aug. 6.
“I’m really hopeful that they’re going to be able to make it through the first round, to gain a lot of experience,” Kittley said. “They’re going to be new pros and be signing contracts and that type of thing.
“Both of them have PRed (set personal records) in the last month. They’re right on the cusp of really breaking into another league, and they need to compete well at this meet. I think making the semifinals would be great.”
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