by Mike Magers
George Young, was born in Roswell and graduated from Western High School in Silver City, and then went on to have a record-breaking career at the University of Arizona. Western High School was the former location of Silver High School. The 1939 structure is no longer there, but is now the location of a residence hall of Western New Mexico University.
At the University of Arizona, he began running the 3000 meter steeplechase and finished second in that event in the National AAU championship. He graduated from Arizona in 1959 and was named outstanding athlete of the year. Upon his graduation, Young qualified for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. That year, he lost in the preliminary rounds of the 3000 meter steeplechase event after tripping over a hurdle, thus disqualifying him for the finals, but the following year he broke the American record by completing the event in 8:31.0. In the 1964 Tokyo games, he improved his record in the event.
He also competed in the 1968 and 1972 Summer Olympics, becoming the first U.S. runner to compete in four Olympics. At the 1968 Olympics held at the high altitude venue in Mexico, he competed in the marathon and the steeplechase, placing 16th in the former event and winning the bronze medal in the latter. Young went on to compete in the following two Summer Olympics. Along the way, he set two world records for the indoor two and three mile. During his career, he held age records in various events. At age 34, he became the oldest person at the time to run a mile in under four minutes with a time of 3:59.6.
Young went on to coach seven sports during his 25 year tenure at Central Arizona College, winning 14 championships there, including the 1988 national cross country title. In 1988, Young was named the National Junior College Athletic Association Coach of the Year. He became a member of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1981 and the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2003. He was honored in 2014 by being named to the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame. His biography was penned in 1975 by author Frank Dolson in his book “Always Young,” available from various sources.
To learn more about George Young, please see his interview at www.garycohenrunning.com.