Yorks Runs Because His Sister Can’t

By Mason Kelley

Izaic Yorks runs to fulfill a promise.

Back in 2008, the cross country and track standout was watching the Beijing Olympics with his sister, Brittany.

Born with complications that caused doctors to doubt whether she would live more than a few years, the fact that the teenager was sitting in her wheelchair watching distance races with her older brother was a medical miracle.

Rarely able to string together a full sentence, Brittany turned to Yorks after one of the races and said, “I want to be able to run like that.”

At that moment, Yorks made a decision. He vowed that, one way or another he would find a way to get her there.

“Ultimately, my running career revolves around her,” he said.

He runs, because she can’t. 

“I probably wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for her,” he said.

Brittany is the reason Yorks runs. She is also a big reason why the junior is at Washington.

As a senior at Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash. he posted the nation’s fastest time in the 1,600 meters (4:04.00). After graduating from high school, he spent his freshman year at the University of Portland before deciding he needed to be closer to home.

“You never know what’s going to happen with family and, with her being in a wheel chair and having all her health issues, I want to be close to the family in case something happens,” Yorks said. “Ultimately, if I needed to, I would leave school in a heartbeat to go take care of her.”

"The thing is just to get better day to day, week to week, so when it comes time for the next race I can just be a little bit faster every time.”

Since transferring to Washington, things have fallen into place for Yorks. He is close to his sister. He is engaged to his high school sweetheart – they met in middle school, but didn’t start dating till late in high school – and posting impressive marks in track and cross country.

“There were a lot of factors to it,” he said. “I thought this was a better place in terms of track and running the mile. Portland is obviously very, very good and there’s no doubt I could have been good there, but I think coming here covers all the bases.”

Yorks’ debut performance on the track landed him on the Husky top-10 lists in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters. He qualified for the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships last season.

He is off to a strong start in cross country this season, finishing 15th at the inaugural Washington Invitational with a time of 23:46.

“Things are going well,” Yorks said. “I’m just getting better every day. You’ve just got to be excited day to day. I’m pretty content and happy with everything. The thing is just to get better day to day, week to week, so when it comes time for the next race I can just be a little bit faster every time.”

Soft-spoken and affable, Yorks takes a cue from his sister, who is “always happy.” He didn’t always have a positive disposition. There was a time in his life when he forced himself to internalize anger and disappointment. He would look at his sister, one of the most important people in his life, and ask “why?”

His frustration tested his faith. But when things were difficult, Brittany provided inspiration.

“One day I just kind of realized, I don’t need to look at it that way,” he said. “I can just enjoy the time I have with her and just be excited, rejoice in the fact that she’s touching so many lives.”

After finding success in high school, Yorks is well on his way to becoming one of the nation’s best collegiate middle-distance runners. After that, well, he still has an Olympic-sized promise to keep.

“That’s the long-term goal,” Yorks said. “High school was a step in the right direction. Now this is a step in that direction. I’m just going to keep going up until I can’t go up anymore.”

Yorks is “committed to the course.” He runs, because Brittany can’t.

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