Comeback kid: Dickinson State’s Young returns stronger than ever after giving birth to first child
Dickinson State track and field senior Brittany Young has proved anything is possible as long as you’re driven.
In December 2012, Young was stunned to find out she was pregnant and would miss an entire year of training.
Before getting a procedure done to correct her compartment syndrome — a disease where Young’s muscles have entrapped her veins and block blood flow to her calves — a CT scan picked up that Young was four weeks pregnant with her son, Cash.
“I was shocked, it was so unexpected and I was so early that there was no way I would have known at that point anyways,” Young said. “We were so worried because I had radiation done and we were terrified something could have happened to the baby and I had a lot of complications for awhile.”
The NAIA all-American from Casper, Wyo., began running competitively when she was in seventh grade but was exposed to competition at an early age. Young’s father was an ironman triathlete and she ran her first triathlon when she was 11 years old.
The only part of the competition she enjoyed was the mile run at the end of the triathlon, which kickstarted Young’s passion for running and track.
Young started her collegiate career at Dakota State in Madison, S.D., before transferring to Dickinson after current head coach Mike Nekuda was hired in 2011.
Her career took off and she made cross country nationals in 2011 and 2012, placing fifth, and was crowned an all-American in outdoor track in the 800 the same year. Running dominates her life, so Young sank into a state of unhappiness when her track plans were put on hold.
“I went through a pretty bad rough spot for probably … 12 weeks that I was so down,” she said. “I wasn’t upset about being pregnant because I was so happy that I had that. It was just that running was all that I knew and so I lost all of that. It was really hard for me to not be competing and to see everybody else competing, and at that point I almost wanted to quit running. It was like, I just wanted to be done.”
Getting back on track
Despite her initial self-doubt and external doubts from others, Young is a naturally driven athlete and didn’t let the next nine months derail her track career.
With the help from Nekuda and the support from Cash’s father, former DSU three-time all-America wrestler Cameron Schrempp, Young was back on her feet just weeks after giving birth in August.
“I give her the credit,” Nekuda said. “She’s the one that wanted to do it and I’ve just been kind of helping out. She’s been the one putting each foot in front of the next and trying to get it done.”
Young missed the 2013 cross country season to prepare for the indoor track season and had only a couple of months to train.
Nekuda started her out with interval training and running only 200 meters at a time before stopping to take it slow. As time went on, the intensity was kicked up to push Young to her boundaries and get in shape for the start of the season.
A lifelong runner, Young struggled at first and despised the process — the first time she felt that way in her life. But despite the pain and the slow recovery, her focus was set on returning stopped at nothing to make it happen and saw progress each week.
“In my mind I was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ and I thought this is why most people hate running. This is why people hate it,” she said with a little laugh. “I never felt like that and it was awful. But in my mind, got to look forward to track season, got to do this, got to try and run conference and try to get through a 5K.”
In her first meet on Jan. 25 at the Dave Little Invitational in Spearfish, S.D., Young finished the 800 in 2 minutes, 32 seconds — sluggish by her standards. But what no one expected was for her to continue to shave time off at a rapid pace.
Roughly a month later on Feb. 21 at the Montana State Open in Bozeman, Mont., Young finished third in the 800 and hit the NAIA A national-qualifying standard of 2:17.53, a time which shocked Nekuda, yet made him extremely proud.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of an athlete just because of all the history we’ve had together and what she’s been through and things like that,” Nekuda said. “I can honestly say I’ve seen people win national titles, but this was different. It wasn’t so much about winning, it was about overcoming an obstacle and not letting what was a great joy in her life bring down another joy in her life. You got to have them both.”
Young added: “Like I said before, running is who I am and now I’m a mom first and then a runner. Track is who I am. It’s what I do and I’ve always been really goal-oriented and, a year ago when I set this goal for myself and said, I’m going to make it to nationals and I’m gonna be just as good as I was before.”
Since Cash was born, Young has been enjoying life as a new mother.
Though hectic at times — attempting to balance school, track and her son — she has loved the process of watching him learn and grow. Her new schedule has taught her to become better with time management and, most importantly, to become focused.
Whether it’s in the classroom, on the track or at home, her mind is dedicated to one task at a time — which wasn’t always the case.
“Before, it was all about running,” Young said.
But she isn’t alone.
DSU junior track and cross country runner Stormie Sickler is roommates with Young and has been helping her out with Cash whenever needed. Sickler is also proud to call herself Cash’s godmother.
“We work out our schedules pretty well so if she has to go to class and she can’t go to the sitter or something, I’ll watch him or he’ll come hang out with the team a few times,” Sickler said. “It’s pretty awesome. I love living with them and I’m definitely a part of their family and they make me feel like a big part of their family.”
Sickler and Young have been close for the past three seasons after Young took Sickler under her wing for track.
After seeing her accomplish so much in such little time, Sickler said Young has been an inspiration of how anything is possible with hard work and dedication.
“I always think, if I’m hurting, she has had to have hurt worse because at the beginning of the season it couldn’t have been easy,” she said. “So if I’m going through pain, I think of what she’s gone through to get where she’s at and it inspires me.”
Young has nothing to complain about regarding her indoor season. She has achieved her year-long goal of getting back in competitive shape and representing DSU at nationals.
But with accomplishment comes naysayers and doubt.
Young said she tuned out negativity about whether or not she could come back and compete, instead focusing on bettering herself.
Young will take to the track Friday to compete fiercely not only for herself, but for her biggest fans — Nekuda, Sickler, Schrempp and, most importantly, Cash.
“Other people can look at (me) and be like, ‘She’s got a lot of odds against her. She just had a kid. She didn’t run cross country. She didn’t run all summer,’” Young said. “But I look at it as I’m just as good as those other girls. I’m not as nervous. … I just want to try and run as hard as I can for myself and for my son, and I think that should just carry itself through.”