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Easy Going

Running--and Winning--Come Naturally to Marshall's Young


Andre Young of Marshall High won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter titles at the City Section track and field championships last year, but when it comes to knowing the sport, he's still a bit naive.

There was the time he ran the City preliminaries in high-top sneakers rather than track shoes.

Young once went to an all-comers meet in the San Fernando Valley in the summer. Young spent much of the meet sitting in the sun in the infield without drinking water--then won his race.

And there was the City freshman-sophomore finals two years ago. Watching an early race from the stands, Young thought it would be a good idea to change his strategy.

Instead of following his usual pattern of running in front, Young decided to work from the back and chase everyone down. He won the race.

"It's OK to experiment, but in a City final?" Marshall Coach Galen Morton said. "But it worked for him. It usually does."

Young, 5 feet 10, 138 pounds, may be unusual in his preparation, but it works because he is a nearly unprecedented talent in the City. Last year he became only the second male in section history to win the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter City titles. Roman Gomez of Belmont won all three in 1985.

Young's inexperience finally showed at the state championships the following week. He tried to do the near-impossible--compete in all three events. Young qualified for the 800 and 1,600 on the first day of the two-day meet but was spent for the finals the next night. He finished last in the 800 and 1,600 and didn't finish the 3,200.

"I wasn't that tired, but my knee hurt too much," Young said.

Young struggled partly because he had never competed in major invitationals, meets that are traditional steppingstones to City, Southern Section and state championships and attract talent from around the nation.

Marshall is not a City power and rarely competed outside of Northern Conference dual meets until the City preliminaries. Many of Young's meets took place on Marshall's oddly configured dirt track, where five laps constitute a mile instead of the usual four.

Marshall has stepped up its schedule this year. Young competed at the L.A. Invitational in February and Marshall won a distance medley relay in Santa Barbara last month. Saturday provides the biggest individual showcase for Young when he runs in the 800 at the Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High.

Young has already learned one thing from his state experience--he will compete in only one event--the 800--at Arcadia. Young is not expected to win. The favorite is Brett Tipton of Indiana, who timed 1 minute 51.77 seconds indoors earlier this year. Young's best time is 1:54.31, set in last year's City final.

Young will also face Chris Burns of Ontario and D.J. Ozan of San Jose Del Mar, each of whom beat Young in the state final. The race will be a good gauge for Young to learn if he is on track to improve his times.

"It's something I'm really looking forward to," Young said. "I want to know how I measure up."

Even if Young does the improbable and wins, it would not be a surprise to Morton, who knew Young was going to be special before he stepped on the track.

Young was academically ineligible as a freshman but was noticed by a Marshall teacher in a physical education class and told to try out for track as a sophomore.

Despite a lack of formal training, Young had little trouble winning most dual meets and ended the 1997 season by setting meet records in the 800 and 1,600 freshman-sophomore City finals. His time of 2:01.18 in the 800 still stands while his mark of 4:29.90 in the 1,600 was broken by teammate Sergio Campos last year.

Last year brought increased attention from other coaches and the triple championship.

"He's the type of talent that every school and coach wishes they could have," said Van Nuys Birmingham Coach Scott King, who has coached in the City for 21 years. "Everything he's done has been so natural for him."

Young's athletic ability is unmatched at Marshall.

He made the varsity baseball team as a junior and played four games with the football team last fall.

But there are questions about his commitment. He quit baseball before playing a game and left football midway through the season.

"I wanted to play, but the [football] team wasn't doing that well and I wanted to focus more on running," Young said. "That was going to take me farther."

He did stay with cross-country. After finishing fourth in the City as a junior, Young placed second behind Henry Briseno of Belmont and finished sixth in the state championships.

Now Young wants to be the first to repeat all three events.

"It can be a good thing if he's naive," King said. "He's not treating it like a business, he's having fun [with track]. . . .that's a good thing."

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