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Tribune top five male athletes No. 3: Charlie Young

Duncan MacLean • Jul 18, 2018 at 12:47 AM

The Tribune is counting down our top male and female athletes, as well as teams for the 2017-18 athletic year. Our No. 3 male athlete of the year is Charlie Young of Grand Haven.

Young excelled in his senior year on the football field and track — powering a committee-driven running game with intense training and physical routes and leading the track team with unprecedented speed and grit in his signature sprint events, finishing the season as Grand Haven’s fastest 400-meter time ever.

His stellar track season concluded with All-Conference, All-Region and All-State honors, making it two each for conference and region awards on his career. Along the way, he picked up gold medal finishes at the O-K Red Conference championship and the Regional Championship meets in the 400-meter dash.

The conference and regional titles capped off an undefeated season in the 400 for Young, who finished as top dog at 10 straight meets, ending with a personal record of 48.33 seconds at the West Michigan All-Star meet. Over the course of his senior season, Young also posted personal records in the 200 (22.53) and 100 (11.49) dashes, as well.

The 400 win against O-K Red rival Rockford was sweeter than the rest, as Young became the fastest one-lapper in Grand Haven history, setting a school record with his run of 48.67 seconds, becoming the first Buccaneer ever under 49.00. The run was the fastest 400 time in the state at that point in the season.

At the Division 1 state finals, Young cracked the top heat, running the inside lane to an eighth-place finish to secure his All-State honors. Additionally, Young anchored the Bucs’ 15th-place 4x400 relay. His career could have closed there, but the senior star couldn’t resist one more lap after scoring an invite to the New Balance Outdoor National Championships at North Carolina A&T University.

Taking on the Emerging Elite division, Grand Haven’s fastest man sped to a seventh-place finish, capping his career on the big stage.

On the football field, Young anchored both the defense and offense as a team captain playing from his fullback and safety positions. His powerful running style made for a perfect short distance option when a little line pushing was needed, while his speed in the allowed him to flow to the ball in the defensive backfield. He even rolled out for an occasional pass, demonstrating solid hands when needed.

Young finished the season with 351 rushing yards on 89 carries, paired with three catches for 16 yards on offense. On defense, he totaled 44 tackles with 19 coming solo and forced two fumbles, recovering one.

Joe Nelson serves as Young’s coach two-fold as head of the varsity football and boys track and field program. Bearing witness to the full spectrum of Young’s athletic talents, Nelson speaks to a no questions asked work ethic as his greatest weapon, whatever the playing surface, while his determination to succeed connects the hard practice to stellar results.

“He is a competitor, he doesn’t like to lose,” Nelson said. “He loves a challenge.”

The Grand Haven varsity football team had plenty of challenges for Young last fall, as they finished with just a 1-8 record on the season. The poor record only magnified Young’s leadership role as the Bucs stumbled through eight losses before winning their season finale, 52-0.

“He was a team captain, chosen by both the players and coaches,” Nelson said. “He was an obvious choice by both. He led by example in drills and in games and was one of the hardest working kids we had.

“He was always doing everything we asked. His work ethic was great; we could always count on him to work hard. He was a significant leader on a senior-dominant team.”

Hard work in practice honed Young’s skills, and a relationship with his teammates. The Bucs employed a by-committee running game this season, with Young leading the way in carries and total yards, and no complaints by his compatriots.

“He was one of our main guys back there, a nice run blocker and one of the stronger backs with the most experience. He was very reliable,” Nelson said.

“He was our strong, powerful runner, vs. guys like Malic Love who were more elusive. Charlie liked to try and carry people.”

Young’s leadership and speed continued through the offseason as he pushed the limits of his winter training, setting himself up for a run at the Grand Haven track record books.

“He was in great shape as we entered the track season,” Nelson said. “He really could attack the workouts that we gave him 100 percent from the start and it helped him stay healthy throughout the season.”

It is one thing to levy an offseason of training for a hot start to the season, but another to carry a perfect run all the way to the state finals. Nelson credits Young’s meticulous race preparation and focus for the undefeated streak.

“I would tell all of our young runners to follow Charlie in warm-ups,” he said. “He had to and did do great warm-ups to get himself mentally and physically prepared to run at that high of a level. For a stretch in the middle of the season, it seemed like we were in a meet every other day and he maintained a high level through that.

“I believe it was during his sophomore year that he had an injury during the conference meet, a hip fracture. That is the kind of thing that teaches you about race prep and he never forgot it.”

Young’s influence on team culture stretched past his warm-up technique as he demonstrated the importance of both physical preparation and a positive attitude.

“He knew what it takes to be successful. His steady and level head and his ability to go through workouts and warm-ups without complaining made him really valuable to our younger athletes. You always have kids that talk about how cold it is or how hard the workout was, Charlie never went there,” Nelson said. “Having those kids watch him do the right things and it pay off for him was great. We are still seeing the benefits of that.”

Young is all set to continue inspiring teammates and fans at the collegiate level as he is signed to join the Davenport Panthers track and field team in the coming year to compete at the NCAA Division II level as part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

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