Runners, take your mark: Houston Young’s decorated 50-year career on the track

Houston Young's 50-year career on the track

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Houston Young was in college when he first stepped foot on the track. After losing his spot as a football manager, he made the switch to the starting blocks.

"I was a sprinter and a long jumper. I ran the 100, the 200. Occasionally I ran the 400 and I long jumped. I tried a couple other areas - not very good at them, but I was fairly decent as a sprinter and a long jumper," said Young.

His college career was pretty quiet, however it allowed him to travel throughout the South and meet some of the sport’s finest competitors.

“I remember one time I went to the Florida relays, and I ran against Bob Hayes, who was a world record holder at one time, so that was quite a treat,” said Young. “I was naïve and didn’t know who he was at first, but before the day was over with, I did, and he and I actually met and became friends.”

But his career in track and field was just beginning.

After graduating college, Houston moved to Selma. He was working for an office supply company when he found a way to get back into the sport... only this time, he didn’t need a pair of spikes.

“Selma High School had the state track meet at Memorial Stadium in Selma. They placed me in the long jump pit with a rake in my hand,” said Young. “For two days, I raked the pit as a long jump raker in 1968. That was my first state track meet. I’ve worked every state track meet since then somewhere outdoors.”

His career as a track official took off, picking up his own medals along the way.

“I started the SEC track meet. I was probably one of the youngest people to ever do that. I’ve actually been fortunate to go work the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, in 2012,” he said.

Now considered one of the top track and field authorities in the nation, Houston's career has spanned more than 50 years. He's seen racers like the great Harvey Glance from Auburn, and Tennessee's Justin Gatlin, and even carried the torch for the 1996 Olympics.

Now, as he is inducted into the Alabama Sports Officials Hall of Fame, his name will be forever remembered as one of the greats.

“I am tickled to death,” said Young about the honor. “I’m very humble, and what I’ve done throughout my life are an accumulation of a lot of people helping me to grow. I try to pass that along to the younger officials too, because of what people have done for me, and hopefully I’ve set a good example.”

Young was also inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame back in 2012.

The Selma native and veteran track official is considered one of the nation’s top authorities in track and field. And for good reason. He is still going strong as one of the busiest track officials in the nation. He has been an official at the AHSAA Outdoor State Track Championships for 52 straight years – serving as the meet director for the past 20 years. He is also the AHSAA Track and Field Rules Interpreter for indoor and outdoor track and has served as the meet director for the AHSAA Indoor State Track Championships for six years. Young, who is the officia1s coordinator for two college conferences, is one of the top college track officials as well – serving as the NAIA National Championships meet director for six years and an official at the meet for 13 years. He has worked in various capacities -- as a starter, throws official and meet director – and an instructor at district camps for five decades. Among his other highlights, he was the starter at the NCAA Division I National Indoor Championships in 2019, the starter for the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships in 2013 and the starter for the NCAA Division III Championships in 2018.

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