From the outside looking in, Gwyneth Young has got it altogether, she’s got it going on. She’s bright, respectful, athletic and social.
But one should be careful when judging a book by its cover, because looks can be deceiving. It’s not that Young isn’t all of the above, it’s just that getting to those places might be harder for her than we might be able to imagine.
Of course, none of this is really any of our business. But being an accomplished athlete gives Young a platform to share a message that deep down in her heart of heart she knows is important.
We all face struggles, it’s one of the things that connects us as human beings, and until you’ve walked a mile – or in Young’s case ran – in someone else’s shoes, you can’t begin to know what they’re going through.
“I feel like it’s more common than people think,” said Young. “People think they’re alone, but it’s because they hide it. I feel that people need to open up, because it can help others. I feel like I’ve been given a platform. I’m becoming more open and people are realizing I’m just a normal person. I’m not a robot. I’m human. I have emotions. I break down.
“One of the most important things a person can do is reach out to a psychologist or a professional,” continued Young. “Just reach out because there are people who can help. I think there’s a negative stigma attached to it. But people shouldn’t be afraid to cry. Let it out, because if you keep it inside, it could lead to a breakdown. I feel like I need to talk about it, because so many people deal with anxious energy. I feel if I’m open with it, other people will feel it’s OK to be anxious.”
Young is a senior at Cedar Crest High School, and one of the best female cross country and track-and-field runners that the Falcons have ever produced. She’s one of the top distance runners in District Three, and in all of the state, for that matter.
Young has committed to continue her athletic and academic pursuits at the University of Pennsylvania and its famed Wharton School of Business. But Young also has anxiety issues, she suffers from a condition called ‘sensory overload’.
“I think it’s just overwhelming to be a senior,” said Young. “I’ve committed to Penn and that’s definitely helpful. But some of my senior classes are overwhelming. I’ve been a lot more anxious lately, and I’m not sure why. I get overwhelmed a lot more easily. When something small happens, I freak out easily.
“I don’t think it’s (senior year of cross country) gone as well as I’ve wanted it to go,” added Young. “It started off well in my first race. But then in the next three competitions, I’d dread going to races instead of being excited about them. It was more of, ‘what’s wrong with me?’ But I thought the league meet was a step forward.”
On Wednesday, October 22nd, at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Cross Country Championships, Young finished fourth, quite an accomplishment for just about anybody. But Young was the defending league champion, and had finished as the runner-up the year before as a sophomore.
And for the most part, Young’s times this season haven’t quite been up to her high standards.
“Anxiety is an hereditary thing,” said Young. “I think it’s definitely part of that. I think I try too hard to be perfect. Everything has to be perfect. For some reason, I’ve become more of a perfectionist.
“I use the term ‘sensory overload’ a lot,” added Young. “I can be slightly stressed out, for some reason. It’s like my senses are inbalanced. I get overwhelmed. If I don’t understand something in class, I shut down.”
Young began noticing a heightened anxiety level during the winter indoor track season last year. It was around that time that she began seeing a psychologist about her condition.
“I started seeing one in November,” said Young. “It has definitely helped. It’s just nice to talk to someone about it. I definitely like going to her. She lets me see things in a different way.
“She just always tells me that when I get overwhelmed to start singing a song in my head, or to scratch my leg or dig my nails into something,” Young added. “By doing that, I’m focusing on the movement. I’m not hurting myself.”
COVID-19 did not cause Young’s sensory overload, but it certainly hasn’t helped it. She missed her entire junior track and field season because of the pandemic, and she was left wondering what she could’ve accomplished.
“I definitely think about it,” said Young. “For the two-mile (3200-meter run), I wanted to break my own records. At first, it definitely had an impact on me. I do look back and wonder what times I could’ve had.
“It (COVID-19) definitely has something to do with it,” continued Young. “I think it’s a mix of COVID-19 and it being my senior year. I can’t go out and distance myself from things. At home, everything is on top of me. I’ve just tried to relax more. I’ve learned that my body needs to relax.”
In some ways, running adds to Young’s anxiety. In other ways, the act can be therapeutic.
The difference seems to originate from the personal expectations she places upon herself when she runs.
“I don’t think it happens with training as much,” said Young. “Before a race, I get more nervous and I don’t feel as good, so it plays a part in that. I sometimes don’t go out as fast as I should. I was more worried about what people think about me than the race plan. I over think during races, more than I did before.
“I think running at practice is definitely therapeutic,” continued Young. “If I had a rough day, it’ll be the best thing ever. I think it’s races. I spend the whole week worrying about it. It’s definitely threapeutic, but it comes back to over thinking it. I think too much about every step and not enough about the overall race plan.”
On Saturday, October 31st at Big Spring High School in Newville, Young will be competing in her fourth District Three Cross Country Championships. Her goal will be to qualify for her fourth PIAA Cross Country meet, among other things.
There are also the winter indoor and spring outdoor track seasons to look foward to.
“I definitely think I’ll feel better,” said Young. “I think at the league meet, I learned to turn my mind off. I was used to last year, going out fast and having the pack with me. I think I’m definitely getting better and I think I’ll do well at districts. I feel like I’m doing the best I can. I’m trying to build myself up.
“I definitely like track more,” Young continued. “I’ve made that obvious. I’m using cross country to get back to the old me and how I used to race. I’m really excited for the winter indoor season and bouncing back. Track is my favorite.”
Just be yourself and allow the race to come to you.