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July 11, 2012OXFORD, Miss. -- Isiah Young wasn't even a runner the last time the United States held its Olympic trials.
Four years ago, while sprinters were competing for Bejing, Young was working for a fast food restaurant.
"I wasn't old enough to get other jobs so it was just fast food," Young said.
Safe to say those days are over. On July 1, Young, a junior at Ole Miss, Young finished third in the 200 meters behind professionals Wallace Spearmon (Saucony) and Maurice Mitchell (Nike). The race earned him an Olympic bid, one of six Southeastern Conference athletes headed to London.
Young crossed the line in 20.16 seconds, way ahead of the 20.32 pace that broke a school record and carried him to the SEC title earlier in the year.
"I thought I got second, so I ran around the track and then looked at the board to make sure," Young said. "I saw I was third, and I wasn't upset since I was going, but I didn't think it was that close It's just such a rush when you realize what happened."
Following the race, Young called his mom before having to put his phone away for a while. More than 80 congratulatory text messages and 40 Twitter mentions awaited reply when he returned to the hotel.
"I responded to everybody," Young said.
The Junction City, Kan., native began his track career at Allen Community College before arriving at Ole Miss. His quick rise is quite remarkable, as Young's personal best was 22.00 during junior college. He's since shaved almost two seconds off that 200 meters time.
Young's travel plans called for him to head back to Mississippi at 5:30 a.m. the day after the race. That type of itinerary wasn't indicative of an Olympic berth. Instead, Young spent the next day in team meetings and learning all the protocol necessary to represent his country. He leaves for London on July 15, and opening ceremonies are two days later.
"I thought I would make the team this year - either in the 100 relay or the open race," Young said. "My chances improved in the 200 when some big names pulled out, like Tyson Gay. That opened a spot for someone younger to make the team. I think I was one of those guys. It gave me confidence."
Just making the team is an enormous accomplishment, but Young isn't satisfied by just being there. His goal is to make the Olympic final and then see what happens. In 2008, Walter Dix's run of 19.98 seconds won the bronze medal, while Jamaican Usain Bolt set the world record at 19.30 seconds. A run of 20.25 seconds was required to make the Olympic final. Young's Olympic trial time would have finished fifth in Bejing.
"Olympic final is what I hope for," Young said. "I think Olympic finals are possible. The first round shouldn't be difficult, and then the second round you have to run pretty fast I just think about not letting the guy behind me catch me."
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