By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
In his piece “Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day,” American poet Delmore Schwartz wrote the oft-quoted line:
“Time is the fire in which we burn.”
Perhaps no one understands the importance of that line more than Alex Young, a 2012 graduate of LaVergne High School.
Young has earned a spot on Team USA for the hammer throw event in the Olympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo, Japan, from July 23 through Aug. 8.
He will compete in early August, and there will likely be lots of young eyes from LaVergne joining others from around the world to watch the competition.
Young’s advice to those young people who may be dreaming of competing on the world stage: Don’t waste time.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s what you do while you’re there,” Young said via phone from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he trains at the University of North Carolina. “Just remember to push yourself and give yourself the opportunity to experience challenge. Challenge is not a bad thing, it’s a matter of growth. And when you face those challenges, you end up becoming a better person on the other side of them.”
Young first gained interest in throwing events while watching the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
A few years later while in high school, he played football and also joined the track and field team, where he threw discus and shot put. He would later set a school record in the shot put and win the TSSAA state championship for his division his senior year.
During the summer between his junior and senior years, he was invited to join a travel team in Nashville, which is when he first gained experience with the hammer throw. He spent the summer learning the foot work involved and how to do a two-turn throw (he now does a four-turn throw).
His hard work and skill eventually landed him a college scholarship to Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, where he again broke school records and won championships in throwing events. He later transferred to Southeastern Louisiana University where he again made his mark.
He earned the 2016 NCAA Championship in the weight throw and became the 2017 USA Champion in the weight throw and the hammer.
His first exposure to the Olympic trials was also in 2016.
At the age of 21, he was young and it was his first time competing with professional athletes. He placed in the top 10 and treated it as a “learning experience,” he said.
In 2017, he earned a spot representing the United States in the World Games in London. The event is similar to the Olympics and Young competed in a stadium full of more than 20,000 spectators, he said.
In June of this year at the age of 26, he earned his place on Team USA during the trials held in Eugene, Oregon. Young threw for a personal record — 256 feet and 11 inches — placing third. The accomplishment was the culmination of 13 years of interest and discipline.
“The Olympics trials are always special because you’re going up against the best guys in the U.S.,” Young said. “Everyone seems to step up twice as much and it’s anyone’s game.”
The games were intended to be played in 2020 — in fact, the official name of this year’s competition remains the “2020 Tokyo Olympic Games” — but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed every thing back a year.
“This one meant more to a lot of people,” Young said.
When he’s not competing, Young likes to find time to serve as a role model and mentor to others.
He is a member of the Global Youth Initiative and likes to help people “make connections,” he said.
He also uses his following on social media. In nearly every post he makes on Instagram (@ayo-young1), you’ll find scripture.
“I use those Bible verses as a way to relate to the situation because I think the Bible is eternal and never-ending,” Young explained. “If I can spread the Word through a post, I can at least inspire someone. Not just my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ but even those who are yet to know Christ, maybe I can spark a conversation. That’s what the scripture is for, it’s kind of inspiring.”
Young also hopes to reach those who are walking the hallways of LaVergne High School, where he says there are many “gems.”
“LaVergne is a stepping stone, but it is an important one,” Young said.
“Don’t waste the time that you have. Time is something you will never get back — it is the most expensive currency.”