East Xtra: Penn Hills senior surprising foes

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Success can often be predicted.

For instance, look at a person's current body of work and project what they will accomplish in the future.

There are, of course, exceptions to this way of thinking.

A prime example is Penn Hills senior Khallid Young, who has become one of the WPIAL's top 400-meter runners this spring.

"I totally didn't expect it," Young said. "It just came out of nowhere."

Chances are Young's opponents have been saying the same thing about him when he passes them on the track.

Young is new to achieving extensive track success, but since he's gotten a taste of it, his hunger has earned him more and more. Young owns the second-fastest reported 400 time in the WPIAL, running a 50.44 in winning the Latrobe Wildcat Invitational two weekends ago.

He also runs a leg on Penn Hills' 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams, both of which have posted the fastest times in the WPIAL.

Young sometimes sees his first name misspelled, with people using one "L" instead of two. But that letter isn't even a part of his vocabulary once he gets on the track. There, all he often sees is "W's."

Penn Hills has competed in three invitationals, and Young has flourished in all of them. His most recent stellar effort came April 12 at Latrobe, where he was one of the meet's top performers after winning gold medals in the 400, 1,600 relay and 3,200 relay, in addition to a third-place finish in the 200.

Performances such as that have caught the eye of Penn Hills track coach Lee Zelkowitz, who has seen Young's production grow immensely the past few years.

"He's come a long way," Zelkowitz said. "I couldn't have predicted that when he first started running track that he would be where he is right now. That's just being committed and working hard. It's not all about talent. You have to work hard, too."

It's hard work that has played perhaps the biggest role in Young's ascension from being a decent runner to an excellent one.

It took Young some time to give it his all in track. He participated in the sport in eighth grade, but quit. He went out for the team as a freshman, but quit again.

Young gave it a third try his sophomore year and finally stuck with it. Even then he wasn't very good, but his confidence grew while competing for his track club that summer, and he began to see his results improve last spring.

Young placed 12th in the 400 at the WPIAL Class AAA championships. Then, as an alternate on the 1,600 relay team that had just won WPIAL silver, Young was called upon to run at the PIAA championships due to an injury sustained by a teammate. The team did not qualify for the finals.

"My goal is to stay consistent," Young said. "I have to stay consistent because I really want to make it to states this time and place."

Young won the 400 at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association championships April 5 at West Mifflin and placed second to Central Catholic's David Henderson March 29 at the South Hills Classic. Henderson (49.94) has the top time in the WPIAL.

Typically, a runner needs to run in the 48s to place highly at the WPIAL championships.

"I really believe he's going to be in the 48s [this season]," Zelkowitz said.

Young said he expects to hit that time at Saturday's South Fayette Invitational.

The relay teams Young runs on are both extremely good, particularly the 1,600 team that includes his cousin, Cameron Hill, as well as Dylin Wilhoite and Duwon Terrell. Wilhoite is the defending WPIAL 800-meter champion.

"It's the leadership and the friendship," Young said as to why the 1,600 team is so successful. "Our friendship is strong. Without that, you can't make a team."

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