12-year-old Lynna Irby posting times that put her way ahead of pack
2:48 PM, Sep. 18, 2011 |
Lynna Irby is a tween – a 12-year-old girl straddling the line between child and teen – but she’s different from most tweens in at least one important way.
She’s also straddling the line between two distinct identities.
When the Pike Township seventh-grader plays with one of her 100 Barbie dolls, she is Lynna (pronounced LEAN-uh). When she pulls on spiked shoes at a track and field event, look out, world, here comes Jaime D. Dizzle, the name Lynna made up for herself.
“When I get into the blocks,” Lynna said, “she comes out.”
And when Ms. Dizzle comes out, she comes out fast – faster, some say, than any other 12-year-old on the planet.
The 5-foot-5-inch, 110-pound sprinter ran times this summer that nearly would have won the 100, 200 and 400 meters at the high school state meet – and she won’t run high school track until 2014. According to one website, her 400-meter time of 54.57 seconds breaks the age-12 world record. If Lynna stays on course, she could become the next Maicel Malone, who won 11 state titles for North Central High School and an Olympic relay gold medal.
Remember, that’s if she stays on course. For Lynna Irby and her blistering fast alter ego, everything starts with that two-letter word – “if.” If adolescent body changes don’t slow her down. . . . If Lynna doesn’t lose interest. . . . If injuries don’t hinder her development. . . . If she finds the right mentor. . . . If others don’t catch up. . . . If all that and more, Jaime D. Dizzle might just carry Lynna Irby to greatness.
A lot can happen to thwart a 12-year-old’s dreams, but some who made it say family support can make a difference.
Most important is something Lynna has in abundance, a love of running.
“I like the rush,” she said, “and I like to hear the crowd.”
Always in a hurry
Before Lynna could walk or run, she was fast. She crawled along the floor of her grandmother’s basement and cut herself on a broken mirror, but she scurried so quickly that she didn’t feel anything. Irby still has scars on her hands. She is so energetic that she has broken her arm and wrist in accidents.
But no one realized the extent of her talent until Mike Vinson, coach at the Indiana Storm track club, noticed her a little more than three years ago. While attending her brother’s rec-league basketball game, Lynna raced up and down the court wearing a cast on her arm. She wondered why the boys couldn’t keep up. Vinson saw that and encouraged the family to register her for summer track.
When Lynna’s mother first saw her daughter in a race, she was moved to tears. That figure running did not look like her little girl.
“I can’t believe that’s my daughter,” Nakela Young told herself.
Not that high achievement was a surprise. Lynna earns A’s and B’s at New Augusta Public Academy, where her favorite subjects are math and science. Her mother said teachers love her daughter. Lynna is thinking about going out for the swim team. She plays violin. She plays with those dolls. She has interests besides track.
Lynna is “very grounded,” Vinson said. “She’s handled this well.”
Her distinguishing trait on the track is a zeal for winning. She said it is all she thinks about.
“She’s not scared,” Vinson said. “But she’s scared to lose. That’s what drives her.”
Family members were initially unfamiliar with the summer track scene. At the first meet they attended, her stepfather, Billie Young, left to find a Target store and spent $200 on umbrellas (for shade), coolers and sandwiches.
But they’ve learned, and been so supportive they have followed her to national Junior Olympics at Greensboro, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Wichita, Kan.
At Wichita, Lynna ran against 14-year-olds because of where her birth date falls (Dec. 6, 1998). She won the 100 in 11.99, was second in the 200 in a wind-aided 24.15, and second in the 400.
From late May through July, her training amounts to no more than three days a week. She does not like the workouts – “they’re hard” – but loves the meets.
“She’s progressed really fast,” Vinson said. “It’s a little scary.”
If you want to know where all this could lead, consider some other child stars.
Angela Williams, Ontario, Calif., was setting records at age 10 and became the only four-time NCAA champion in the 100 meters.
San Diego sprinter Monique Henderson, 28, ran track from age 6 until retiring after the 2008 Olympics. From the ages of 10 to 19, Henderson lost one race. She won a world youth title in the 400 meters at age 16 in 1999 and set a national high school record of 50.79 in 2000.
Passion was one of the keys to her success.
“It was my life and my way of life,” Henderson said. "I never had any days where I said, ‘OK, I’m done with it.’ "
Sustaining that passion is not easy. She said she struggled with the transition from high school and didn’t have love of the sport rekindled until she was a junior at UCLA.
Still, she did win two Olympic gold medals in the 1,600-meter relay.
Not everyone makes that transition, though.
Shauntel Elcock, who ran for Arizona State, never ran faster in college than she did as a sophomore at Fort Wayne Northrop High School. “The bad thing is, where do you go when you get to the top because nobody is beating you?” she said.
Elcock did help Arizona State win an NCAA indoor team title and earned All-America honors in relays. But she never qualified for the NCAA or USA Championships in the 400 meters, her specialty.
“Eventually, I got it,” she said. “I guess I got it too late.”
Elcock, 24, said she didn’t realize how much she “fed off” support from family and high school teammates.
That bodes well for Lynna.
“From what I can see and know,” said Terry Milton, Elcock’s former coach in Fort Wayne, “she’s got a very good support system, from her parents to her coaches to some of the kids that she hangs around with.”
Coaches and athletes said peers influence performance. Henderson recalled coming up the Southern California ranks with the likes of Lashinda Demus, 28, and Allyson Felix, 25. At the recent World Championships, Demus took the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles, and Felix became only the fourth athlete in the meet’s history to win four medals.
Felix, at 17, turned pro out of high school and never ran college track. She promises to be NBC’s focus in promotions leading up to the 2012 London Olympics.
Malone said Lynna “might end up like Allyson Felix.”
Like the California girls, she has peers. Lynna was on an Indiana Storm team that finished fifth in a relay at the Junior Olympics.
While track is not as lucrative as many sports, the world’s top sprinters can make hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships, appearance fees and prize money. Lynna is not worldly enough to know what might lie ahead, but she knows enough to assert that she wants a Nike endorsement someday.
A lofty goal for a 12-year-old? Yes, but not out of the question.
Putting too much emphasis on winning can be a mistake, according to Adam Henderson, who coached Monique and two other daughters. What can ruin such athletes, he said, is “when they run for someone else, and not themselves.”
Henderson’s advice? Have fun.
So far, Lynna has that part down to a science.
Consider how she chose her alter-ego. Jaime is a cousin’s name, and “D” is for dolls. Dizzle? Well, because it’s a fun name.
Judging from her times, we might be hearing from Ms. Dizzle for some time.
Call Star reporter David Woods at (317) 444-6195.
On a personal note, I met this writer David Woods when I wandered over to Indianapolis for the first time to watch the US nationals in 1985 (I think it was) and knew no one there. He scooped up this abandoned traveller and showed me around Indy. Good guy, very knowledgeable on track, good writer. KK
Those times are insanely fast for her age. Hopefully she keeps it fun and doesn’t get burned out.
Precocious puberty produces prominent performance.
Puberty, obviously - but those times are still damn good for a 16-17 year old.