Young guns for national crown

"Hershey, Pennsylvania, is one of world’s centers for delicious chocolate. But Ryan Young of the Poulsbo Thunderbolts is there for something of even more significance.This year, he’s there for gold. Young, 12, started competing with Poulsbo’s youth track team when he was 9 years old. In three full years of competition — one season was cut short by a broken arm — the Silverdale resident has two state championships in the softball throw and a bronze medal at the 1997 Hershey National Track and Field Championship to his credit. The third place medal won’t do this time, though. Young’s goal is to take home a first place — that, and one of those 5-pound chocolate bars so popular with locals and visitors alike. In order to qualify, the freshman-to-be at Poulsbo Junior High School had to best a tough field at the state meet in Tumwater. He topped his nearest competitor by more than 10 feet, though, and he’ll be Washington’s representative at Hershey Nationals, which begin Aug. 14.The key to Young’s success? Practice, he said. At least every other day, he can be found throwing the softball — a work ethic he learned from his older brother, Jeremy, a former college pitcher.“I’ve been throwing baseballs since I was 5 years old,” he explained. “(And) I practice on just about all nice days.”Jeremy isn’t the only family member that’s been helping in Young’s quest. His mother, Kathy Felix, and his grandmother, Jean Iverson, attend “just about everything” he competes in.“Having my grandma around me (is a big help),” said Young. “Her house is like a second home to me, because I go there just about every morning.” He credits the presence of his family for helping him concentrate — a key in track and field.With his mind at peace, Young has a technique that serves him well.“I just kind of visualize the throw,” he said. “If I want to get 192 feet, I think of a 192 throw.” That throw — an impressive toss for most anyone, almost Herculean for someone his age — is Young’s current personal best. Don’t think, though, that he’s satisfied with it.“I have to try to throw 200,” he said. “Because next year, most of the kids will be throwing 190.”If that kind of long-term planning seems odd coming from someone who was born just before the Bush administration, don’t think it’s an anomaly. Though Young is an apt name for an athlete still in his pre-teen years, his planning skills show him to be mature beyond his years. In a world that lives in the moment, Ryan Young doesn’t dwell on the present — he’s already looking to the future.“I’m hoping to make it next year again,” he said. And this year?“My goal is just to do the best I can,” he said before leaving for Hershey. “If I set a record, I set a record.”With the way things are going for Young, don’t bet against either of those."

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