The speed bug bit Liz Young early on, infecting her with the years to burn.
"My parents tell me that when I was a baby I would rock the crib until it fell over, scramble out and quickly crawl away," Young said "I guess I just did not like to keep still."
That crib could not hold back Young then and currently very few women sprinters can contain the fleet University of the District of Columbia junior. Young, who will compete in the Penn Relays this week, is among the best American women sprinters and probably the best all-round performer on the East Coast in distances from 60 to 400 meters.
"Liz handles herself with anybody in the 200," said her coach, Adrian Dixon. "Nobody has beaten her in that event except former Olympians like Rosalyn Bryant and Brena Morehead (the American record-holder)."
Young, who is so unassuming that she has trouble remembering her own times in events, admitted she had run out of Eastern competition in the 200 and 400 and would like to compete in talent-rich California to improve.
The business management major has made the championship of the Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women her personal stomping grounds in her two years at UDC. Young won the EAIAW indoor and outdoor 200-meter races last year plus the outdoor 100. She set a record in the 200 of 24.8 in 1978, lowering the standard by four-tenths of a second this year as she repeated as champion.
Young's personal best mark of 23.3 in the 200 meters equals the nation's best hand-timed mark this season. This year, she placed second in the 60 meters indoors in the EAIAW meet, won the 60-yard dash in January at the CYO meet at the University of Maryland and won the national AIAW 300-yard indoors in 34.5.
After the victory, Young began capturing the attention of her UDC classmates.
"I used to get teased all day long about wearing my warmup uniform to class," Young said. "One day I got up to leave class early for a meet and somebody said, 'Where are you going, to play basketball or something?'
"then a guy replied, 'Hey that's Liz Young. She's the American indoor record holder in the 300.' The rest of the class just said 'Ahhh!'"
Despite the record, Young hates to compete indoors. She says she feels more comfortable when she has a view of green grass, sky and trees.
She proved that recently in the Delaware State Invitational when she competed in her first-yera open 400-meter race. She finished first in a meet-record 54.2, lowering her previous best time by eight-tenths of a second.
The next week Young ripped off a 53.2 in the Maryland Open women's meet at College Park for a personal mark and a meet record. Young's 23.3 in the 200 also established a meet standard.
"I'm still not comfortable in the 400," Young said. "The 200 is more familiar, and it's over quicker. In the 400, I have too long to think about what I have to do and, sometimes, as a result, my mind goes completely blank."
"I think Coach Dixon is still experimenting with me. Plus, I guess I'm full of surprises."
Young said her arm motion has improved "100 percent" under Dixon's tutelage. Correct arm swing lenthens the already-long stride of the 5-foot-10 young."Liz has innate speed, plus size and strength," Dixon said. "A longer race gives her more time to get into her stride pattern. She's just getting into it at 60-70 yards."
Young grew up in Englishtown N.J., winning state titles in the 100 and 200 her senior year in high school. She also made all-district in basketball, averaging 15 points as a senior.
Recruited by Penn State and Pitt, among other schools, Young opted for Delaware State because it was close to home. However, she became bored at Delaware State by her sophomore year, went home and did nothing during the remainder of the school year.
Carolyn Brinkley, a teammate at Delaware State who had transferred to UDC, persuaded Young to do the same.
Young will follow up the Penn Relays with races in the AIAW nationals and the AAU championships.
She already has qualified in both the 100 and 200 for the AAU, but needs to get down to 54 flat to qualify for the 400. Selections for the summer Pan Am team will be made from the top finishers in that meet. CAPTION: Picture, "Liz (Young) handles herself with anybody in the 200," says her coach at UDC. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post