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Prep boys swimming: East's Yung is a Julien of all trades

Clint Austin / Duluth East junior Julien Yeng swims the 100-yard breaststroke against Forest Lake on Tuesday at Lincoln Park Middle School in Duluth.

Most high school swimmers arrive to a meet knowing precisely which events they will compete in.

Not Julien Yung, at least not always. The Duluth East junior only has himself to blame.

Yung is the kind of swimmer who isn't easily pigeonholed. In other words, he can do a little of everything.

"He's pretty much got it all," said Sandy Verry, coach of the Duluth team, an East-Denfeld co-op. "He's got all four strokes. He's got the sprint down. He's got the distance down. He's our utility player."

And, Yung says, he's "fine with that."

Sure, he has his specialties. Yung mainly swims the 200-yard freestyle, 200 individual medley, 500 freestyle and on Duluth's dominant 400 freestyle relay. He's only half-joking when he says, "I've done all 12 (events)."

After practice last week at Ordean East Middle School, Yung was asked how he felt about the utility role. Assistant Dave Malban was quick to interject.

"Should I walk away so you can answer that honestly?" Malban quipped.

"I kind of welcome that it's all over the board because it gives me that diversity," Yung said.

On a squad rife with talent, including a few teammates who excel in many of the same events, Yung's willingness to fill out the lineup where he's most needed is crucial. And selfless. It's an example of what Malban calls quiet leadership from the coachable Yung.

"He doesn't care where we put him," Verry said. "He does it for the team. We plug him where we need him."

So far, that's been everywhere but the diving board.

Yung, who was introduced to this sport at about 6 years old when he started splashing around the YMCA's pool, is consistently a podium finisher. He's a bit of a rarity in that he's got both speed and endurance. Ditto for cohorts Ryan Zelen, a senior who will swim collegiately in the Big Ten for Wisconsin, and eighth-grader Grant Wodny. It's akin to a track and field runner getting done with the mile, taking a short break, then toeing the blocks for the 100-meter race.

All that talent ensures lively practices. Teenagers, of course, don't like lagging behind their peers.

"Especially teenage males," Verry said.

Duluth is enjoying a strong season as the section and state meets approach later this month. There's no reason the good — see: fast — times can't continue, Yung said.

"Duluth is definitely a huge competitor for swimming. We've been showing it all year," he said. "It's been fun going against these huge teams that are really good, and showing them Duluth is competitive and fast."

Tuesday night, for example, Section 7AA favorite Forest Lake came to Lincoln Park Middle School for a dual and left on the wrong side of a 112-74 final score. Yung finished second in both the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke, with sophomore teammate Joe Rudd winning both.

He also helped Duluth's 400 freestyle relay win by more than seven seconds, along with Wodny, Zelen and Beau Giddings, and was part of the 200 medley relay that came in third.

Indeed, Yung was busy. The soon-to-be Eagle Scout — he just needs to submit the paperwork — wouldn't have it any other way. His best times this season include 1:52.18 in the 200 freestyle; 2:07.09, 200 IM; 51.01, 100 freestyle; and 5:10.15, 500 freestyle.

Yung, whose father, Tony, also swam at East, competes with the Lake Superior Swim Club during the prep offseason. It can be a grind, but perhaps no time on the calendar is more daunting than what's coming in the next week for Duluth — the taper. After building and building, both in terms of length and intensity of workouts, the team will scale back in hopes of being fresh for the meets that truly count.

Yung likely will compete in the 500 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay come section and state time, as well as either the 200 freestyle or 200 IM. He looks every bit like the seasoned swimmer he is, which allows Yung to embrace such a heavy workload.

"He's solid in every stroke," Malban said.

Added Verry: "Julien is a very dedicated, focused swimmer."


Prep status: Duluth East junior

Age: 17

Sports: Swimming

GPA: 3.8

School activities: Sterling Strings (plays viola)

Family: Father, Tony; mother, Sharon; brothers, Aiden and Elliot

Pets: Yuki, a Japanese Spitz dog

College plans: Undecided, but leaning toward med school and hopefully swimming


If I could meet one person — dead or alive — who would it be? Michael Jackson

One thing people don't know about me: "I try to be focused, even though it doesn't seem like it"

My ideal vacation: Anywhere warm by an ocean

Fear or phobia: Not getting along with people

Favorite home-cooked meal: Mom's spaghetti or wild rice soup

Favorite book: "Inferno" by Dan Brown

One thing at the top of my bucket list: To visit every continent

Favorite style of music: Hip-hop

Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps