BOZEMAN -- After spending the past two years in Lexington, Ky., Manhattan Christian graduate Lincoln Young can easily find a silver lining in his sophomore track and field season getting cut short.
“I’ve missed the snow, so it’s kind of nice,” laughed Young, a pole vaulter at the University of Kentucky who is back in Bozeman after the coronavirus pandemic closed the UK campus.
Young, like many athletes across the country, saw his season abruptly end after he twice cleared new personal-best heights. Following that indoor season, he had high expectations for Kentucky’s outdoor season, which was supposed to start March 20.
“I was hoping to get over 17 feet at least this season, so it was a bit of a bummer to not have that opportunity in the outdoor season,” said Young, who has a personal record (PR) of 16 feet, 1.75 inches.
“I was a bit disappointed,” he added, “but I kind of just realized immediately that being mad about it wouldn’t really change anything.”
Young is mature beyond his years and has a balanced perspective after facing adversity and dealing with disappointment his senior year of high school. He had cleared 15-04 as a junior at Manhattan Christian, setting up his senior season for what figured to be a strong sendoff.
It didn’t go as planned, though, as Young cleared only 15-0 during the season. The Class C state record of 15-01, set by Arlee’s Rafe Espinoza in 2001, was still in Young’s sights when the state meet started in Laurel, but that too ended in disappointment. Young cleared 14-0 to win the event, but he failed on all three attempts at the state record, including one where his pole snapped.
“My senior year state meet was a bit frustrating,” Young recalled. “It was just kind of a perfect storm of not really being prepared for what I was asking myself to do.”
He still won, leaving Manhattan Christian as a two-time state champion to embark on an NCAA Division I career in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference. Once he was in Lexington, Young faced more adversity.
He got hurt his freshman indoor season and used the 2019 outdoor season to get his feet back under him. Young did record a then-personal-best height of 15-09 last year, but he no-heighted at the SEC Championships. After clearing 15-11 and later 16-01.75 in this year’s indoor season, he again no-heighted at the conference championships while teammate Matthew Peare cleared 17-11 to win the individual title.
“We have a great group of vaulters, so it’s just all of the support in the world. We just cheer each other on,” Young said. “Matthew’s been a great help to me. Almost like a bit of a second coach, if you will. Coach (Kris) Grimes has been awesome, as well. Just having Matthew there as kind of like someone to look up to, it’s been great."
While the transition to collegiate pole vaulting has been an admitted struggle for Young, the move from the small-school environment at Manhattan Christian to UK, which boasts an enrollment of just more than 30,000 students, has gone swimmingly. A digital media and design major, Young is invested in his schoolwork and frequently works on his own self-assigned art-related projects.
“I have done a lot of logos. Right now I’m kind of interested in illustrating. I try not to put myself in a box, because I find that my passions tend to shift quite regularly,” he said.
One constant has been his desire and determination to improve at the pole vault pit. Young said he hasn’t improved as much as he was hoping in his first two years at UK and can’t pinpoint exactly why, but it only helps competing against high-level athletes — both in practice and at meets around the country.
“I’ve definitely been consistently vaulting over 17-foot bungees. Whether I would be able to clear the bar, I can’t really say. I have been having struggles in practice as well as meets," he said. "I think inconsistency is my biggest problem. There definitely have been times when I’ve had really good jumps. It’s difficult for me to translate that over to a meet sometimes.”
It won’t be for lack of effort. Young had a small breakthrough when he cleared 16 feet during the indoor season, and he was optimistic about the outdoor season before it got canceled. He’s now back in Montana doing body-weight exercises assigned by his strength coach and doing whatever other training the Gallatin Valley allows.
“I’ve also got running training from my coach, which I’ve been doing whenever the weather permits,” he said.
Now, about that snow ...