LRC Q&A: NXN Champ Nico Young on His Favorite Race, Toughest Workout, & Why He Chose NAU

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By Jonathan Gault
February 21, 2020

Nico Young is putting together one of the greatest years ever by an American high school distance runner. In the fall, he ran 13:39 at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, the fastest 3-mile time ever by a high schooler, just missed German Fernandez‘s course record at the California state meet, and closed out his season by setting a course record at NXN to lead his Newbury Park squad to the national title.

Young only ran one race during this indoor season, but it was special: 7:56.97 for 3,000 meters at the Millrose Games to break Drew Hunter‘s national high school record. Now his eyes are turned to outdoor track, where he hopes to chase more fast times, including at the Arcadia Invitational, where Young already holds the meet record in the 3200 meters at 8:40.00.

For Young’s cross country accomplishments, he was named Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year on Thursday. After he was presented with his award in a ceremony at his school, I caught up with Young over the phone to talk about his favorite races, favorite pro runners, and why he chose to attend Northern Arizona University in the fall.

Photo courtesy Gatorade

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JG: You had a lot of great races in the cross country season and recently on the track with your high school record at Millrose. What would you say was your favorite race from high school so far?

NY: I think my favorite race was probably NXN. To be able to share my individual achievement also with my team’s achievement, I think that was the best race to cap off the season.

Are you a fan of the sport? Who are your favorite pro runners?

Probably Galen Rupp because he talked to me a little bit after my race at NXN and that was really cool. And probably Justyn Knight, because when I just recently ran the 3k, I talked to him for a little while and he was really nice. Probably them.

What did Justyn say after the race to you?

He said good job and stuff and he thought that it was really awesome that I was able to have the experience to run in that race. He told me I have big things coming in the future. He was just really encouraging.

And what about Galen? He’s not really known for being the talkative type. What did he tell you after NXN?

He congratulated me a lot. We didn’t really get to talk to much, but he definitely said it was an amazing race and he’s really excited to see what I do in the future and will be following that.

So you’ll be heading to NAU this fall. Why did you choose NAU?

I chose it because on my visit, the coach and the team, the whole environment there was definitely a more motivating and a better environment, I thought, in general, than the other schools I had visited. The team really reminded me of my team here at Newbury Park, which I thought was really cool. I knew all along that their coach was probably the best choice for me as a coach, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted from myself in my future. As the season progressed, I realized I had a good chance that running would be in my future after college, so choosing NAU I thought was the best choice for me.

Which distance is your favorite to race?

I think so far, probably 3k or 2-mile. 

What about cross country versus track? Which one do you prefer?

I think cross country, because every race you go to, you travel with your team and you compete with your team. I think that’s an aspect that’s kind of lost in track sometimes.

What is the toughest workout you’ve ever run?

Anytime we do mile repeats at race pace, that’s definitely the hardest workout.

Is there any one in particular that stands out?

This year, one really hard workout that I had to do was one mile, where I ran 4:10, then 800 that I went 2:07. This was the video that Tempo Sports did on our team. And then I ran one mile and ran 4:16 for that and then another 800 in 2:07. That workout was pretty good.

Your running form — and I’m sure you’ve received this comment — but it always looks like you’re tired, exhausted, you’re pushing your body to your limit even halfway through a race. Has that always been the case for you? How did you develop that form? Is it weird at all, or are you just used to it?

I think I’m used to it. Things like fixing my form, as in, like, my arms, my coach and I are going to work on that pretty soon. Because that is something that can pretty easily be fixed, I think. But yeah, I’m already used to that part. I don’t think it’s a real indication of how tired I am.

Talk about Nico Young on our fan forum/messageboard. MB: LRC’s Q&A With Nico Young. Young tells us why he chose NAU and who his favorite pros are

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