NOTE: This is the 11th installment in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Look for the final inductee Ron Ingram’s profile Friday. The 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet is set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
By BILL PLOTT
Veteran AHSAA track and field official James Houston Young graduated from Uniontown High School in 1963 and Livingston University in 1968. He also holds a master’s degree from the University of Montevallo.
It was at Livingston, now the University of West Alabama, where he was introduced to track and field. In his junior year he went from manager on the football team to a sprinter and jumper on the college’s inaugural track team. He was captain of the team his senior.
He started his teaching career at Beatrice High school in 1968 but only remained there a year. He then took a job as a department store salesman for a year, returning to education in 1970.
His new position was at Lowndes County Training School where he taught for a year. In 1971 he moved to Selma High School as a driver education teacher, football assistant and head track coach. He started a cross country team at the school, compiling a dual meet record of 47-6.
In 1979 he moved over to Selma’s Wallace State Community College where he remained as an administrator until he retired in 2001. He has received service awards from the Alabama Veterans Association and the National Association of Veterans Program Administration.
When he started teaching at Beatrice in 1968, he also started officiating track events. He has continued ever since. He has worked at every state track meet since that first year and currently serves as state meet director for all AHSAA track and field events.
He was named AHSAA Southwest District Official of the Year and AHSAA State Track Official of the Year in 2008. He received the National High School Federation Citation Award for Officiating in 2010.
Young, who will be inducted into the AHSAA Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 March 23, has also worked as a starter and official at numerous Southeastern Conference, NCAAA and Junior Olympic events. He ran in the Vulcan Marathon in Birmingham in 1979.
His work in track and field has been so respected that he was selected as one of the torch bearers for the 1996 Olympic Games. Young joined nine other bearers in carrying the torch to Atlanta. His leg of the journey was through downtown Selma. The torch he carried is displayed in his home.
“The biggest excitement was when my torch was originally lit,” he recalled in an interview several years ago. “It was exciting to know that everyone who was in the Olympics had their eyes on me. You have so much adrenaline built up that you go faster than you realize. When I got ready to pass off the torch, I wished I had run a little slower to enjoy one more minute of the run.”
Michelle Russ, director of sales with the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission, wrote of his work with that organization: “I have known Houston for seven years and I can tell you, without hesitation, that he is one of the finest people I have ever met. Houston has worked closely with the AHSAA, the City of Gulf Shores and the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission since 2007 on the AHSAA Outdoor Track Championships. Houston not only worked to attract the event to the area but also works year round to plan for this incredible event. He shares his time, knowledge and enthusiasm with all parties involved in the track championships to make sure the event is a huge success. In 2012, under that guidance of Houston Young, the City of Gulf Shores designed and built a new track facility for the citizens and athletes of the state of Alabama to enjoy.
“Houston routinely takes the time to help the community and young athletes from across the state. In fact, Houston’s presence in our community has impacted many around him. Houston volunteers his time on a regular basis. He shows leadership skills during difficult times, excellent problem-solving skills and has a real team-first attitude. Houston Young is an asset to Alabama high school athletics, regional track programs and the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach community.”
Grant Brown, director of Gulf Shores Recreation and Cultural Affairs, also commented on Young’s work: “On the professional side, Houston has been instrumental in the growth of track and field in south Alabama and most specifically, Gulf Shores. His knowledge and ability to expertly coordinate officials, coaches, athletes, volunteers and the facility staff is a testament to his expertise. In addition, when faced with the need to renovate our aging track facilities, Houston’s knowledge and passion led the way, helping us improve and expand our facility. Our city spent nearly $1 million and now has a state-of-the-art track capable of hosting the highest level events. We currently host the AHSAA Track and Field State Championships, NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and the Sun Belt Conference Championships. Houston is Meet Manager at each of those prestigious events and handles them with excellence.
“Personally I have not met a more gracious, dedicated man who truly does what he does for the love of the sport and the people involved. I cannot think of a more worthy person to be recognized [in] the distinguished list of hall of fame inductees. He will represent that elite fraternity well.”