How Mitchell's Lilly Young became an elite thrower: 'She just lives and breathes it'

May 3—MITCHELL — Senior Lilly Young has set a standard of excellence for the Mitchell track and field team this season.

As one of the Kernels' top athletes, Young has shined inside the throwing circle, where she's thrown a personal best of 120 feet and 2 inches in the discus, a mark that ranks 13th in the state, and a personal-best 37 feet and 1 inch in the shot put, which is the 19th mark in the state.

And as she's built on her success as a thrower, Young's also grown in her leadership ability, becoming instrumental in fostering a tight-knit culture among Mitchell's throwing squad.

"We made her team captain (her sophomore year) because she was just so much more dedicated than anybody else we've had," throwing coach Sterling Dockweiler said. " ... She just lives and breathes it. And it's been awesome."

Young will compete in the discus on Saturday morning at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays in Sioux Falls. She's also on track to reach the state meet in both the shot put and discus in Class AA later this month.

One of the high points of Young's career came at the Mitchell Triangular on April 30, when she eclipsed 37 feet on her shot-put throw, shattering her previous record of 34 feet and 11.5 inches.

"Shot put has been a mental block for me, so getting over that, I loved it, it felt great," Young said. "And to have my whole team there behind me, I was like alright, I'm having a good time."

She followed that performance by winning the O'Gorman meet on a Friday with a throw of 36 feet, 9 inches.

Her ability to peak at the ideal time — in the final month of her senior season — is a credit to her years of effort.

Young began throwing at middle school as a seventh grader, then joined the high school team in eighth grade. When she got there, the throwing team had simplistic training practices.

Dockweiler admitted there was limited planning involved, and the overarching theme was to "just go and throw hard." According to Young, the only way Mitchell athletes knew how to throw the shot put was by the rudimentary technique of gliding.

But in recent years, the training has evolved.

"We had opportunities with college coaches to learn rotational shot put, which is what I do now. The spinning in the circle, that thing," Young said. "That's progressed such a long way. And now I think we have just more and more kids learning rotational from the beginning instead of learning bad habits, and it's good to help teach them."

Along with the improved techniques came better training in the weight room. Instead of just getting stronger, the team's main objective is to improve explosiveness in each workout. On the bench press, for example, the strategy is to bring the bar down slowly, then pop it back up as fast as possible, to mimic "the last second where you have to explode off those legs and shoot it out there," Young explained.

"The last couple of years, we made a lot of changes to develop the skills, the explosiveness that we need early in the season," Dockweiler said. "If we're not spending a ton of time on technique, then later in the year we can take the explosiveness and the strength that we built and turn it into technique."

The past couple of seasons, Young has followed the formula, spending personal time in the winter and early spring in the weight room building up her explosiveness, then honing in on technique as the season progresses.

And at the Mitchell Triangular, her preparation and ability came together for the perfect throw.

"I can tell you what it was. For a long time we've been trying to get her to quit peeking over her shoulder when she goes to throw. You're supposed to keep your eyes on the back as long as you can. And she did it. She found the back and then there it went," Dockweiler said.

In many ways, the Mitchell throwers operate as a separate entity than the rest of the track and field team. Due to the construction of the new high school, the thrower's practice field is on the east side of the current building, away from Joe Quintal Field and the rest of the team.

Amidst the isolation, Young has made it her responsibility to build a strong culture amongst the throwers.

"I consider us a family," Young said. "Like, 100 percent, I will always say they're my family. Brothers, sisters, whatever. I love them. And I know they think the same about this team. If we hear someone talking about any of the throwers, we say something."

Dockweiler has seen her grow from a freshman who "just followed everybody else" to someone who's taken charge of the team.

Young is always paying attention to the younger throwers, making sure they're staying on task. She'll pull teammates out of the tent when it is time to warm up, and will yell encouragement at them while they're competing.

She joked that she's "attached at the hip" with Taylor DeJong, a rising sophomore who will compete at Howard Wood in the shot put.

"She's really embraced that leadership part," Dockweiler said. "And she's not content to let other kids stay the same."

Beyond that, Young's gone the extra mile for the program, helping with team fundraisers, and going to all the team camps. As she prepares for the next state of her life, Young's coach believes big things are in store for her future.

"This year, she's turned into an elite thrower," Dockweiler said. "Any college would be lucky to have her, even if she doesn't ever hit the biggest mark — though she could — just because of the person she is. She's just a great kid."