Stevens: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's UNM's Deanna Young
Updated June 7, 2010
NCAA Outdoor Track And Field Championships
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
At the end of her three, bouncy, leaps, it would be nice if Lobo Deanna Young could sprout some bird wings to go along with those bird bones of hers -- and fly to those two extra inches she seeks.
For Young, track has become a game of inches. To be exact, it is a game of two inches. That's all this Lobo junior is looking to add onto her best triple jump ever.
"My goal is to jump 44 feet," said Young. "I've gone 43-10. I just want those two extra inches."
The triple jump isn't necessarily the most graceful of events. A competitor shoots down a runway and their sprint kind of turns into a Big Bird-like dance that appears to be as awkward as it is athletic.
The jumper leaps to one leg and then leaps onto another leg and then on the third hop the jumper usually crashes into a pit like an ostrich stepping into a gopher hole.
It helps if you have thunder thighs to handle the stress of all that pounding. Often, the women who hurl themselves down the ramp putting all their weight and all that stress on a single leg are of a sturdier stock than Young.
Young isn't a prototype triple jumper. The Highland High product is 5-foot-4 and maybe 115 pounds. She is more willow than oak. But the New Mexico All-American definitely has what it takes to be an outstanding Lobo at her craft.
`Cause she soars like a sparrow.
"My coaches tell me my bones are light like a bird's," said Young. "They tell me I have bird bones and that's what makes me jump so far and that's why I can hang with the bigger girls.
"I agree with that. A lot of the girls in this event are power jumpers. They are big and strong and that's not me. I would say at every meet there are girls looking at me thinking, `How can she jump that far?' I go to surprise people."
At the Texas Relays in April, Young surprised the field, and maybe herself a little, by winning the event and shattering a 20-year-old UNM record. Young went 43-10.75. That's the mark she wants to add two inches to, which actually would be 44-0.75.
The effort made Young the MWC Female Athlete of the Week in track.
She missed her goal in the MWC Championships held in May at UNM with a jump of 43-03.25, good for second place. Young didn't exactly have a great meet at the NCAA West Region in Austin, Texas, but the good news is she lives to jump another day. Her leap of 42-09.75 placed her in the Top 12 and pushes her to the NCAA finals in Eugene.
The speedy Lobo is hoping to surprise a few people in Eugene -- especially if that heavy Oregon air holds up that light, Lobo body for just a few more seconds and a few more inches.
"Speed is important for me," said Young. "Some people rely on power and some people need speed to carry them through the jump. I need speed."
As mentioned, the triple jump is not an event of pure grace and beauty. But you can see the importance of athleticism, balance and timing in this event. That's Young's edge. That, and speed.
Young was first introduced to the triple jump at Highland High when the Hornets' coach was looking for someone to fill the triple jump spot. He went over to talk to the Hive's long jumpers.
"It's kind of a hard event," said Young. "Your legs, your knees, take a pounding. It looked fun, but most of the girls at my school thought it was too hard and that only guys did it.
"Coach asked me, "You want to do it?' I said, `Cool. I'm in.' "
The triple jump is a challenge Young is good at. She used the event to become the first Lobo woman in UNM history to earn indoor All-America honors. She is now the UNM record holder in the event both indoor and outdoor. She would love to become an NCAA outdoor All-American.
Young said she first became interested in track after watching the Olympics.
"I was about 10 or 11," said Young. "I watched the Olympics and then went outside and was running down the sidewalks. I asked my dad, `Am I fast enough to be in the Olympics?` I was just running then. At first, the only event I wanted to do was running."
For Young, for the Lobos, it's a good thing that she decided to make the jump into another event when a Highland coach came calling.
"I just looked at the triple jump as a challenge," said Young. "And I wasn`t that good in the long jump."