The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa softball’s Jena Young focused on maxing potential after stellar high school career

The first-year shortstop emphasizes adjusting to collegiate play and self-improvement over expectations placed upon her.
Isabella Tisdale
Iowa infielder Jena Young poses for a portrait during Iowa softball media day at Bob Pearl Field on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. The Iowa softball team answered questions from media and held an open practice.

Jena Young has already worked herself into the starting lineup for Iowa softball in her first collegiate season.

Iowa softball head coach Renee Gillispie told reporters last week the Hawkeyes started recruiting Young when she was in the seventh grade.

Gillispie was confident that the top prospect would choose the Hawkeyes.

“She’s a Hawkeye through and through, so it was an easy sale,” she said.

Growing up in Winterset, Iowa, Young was a multisport athlete competing in softball, basketball, and track and field. She excelled most on the softball field, attaining Division I attention at just 13 years old. She started playing varsity softball at 14 years old.

In her first year on varsity as an eighth grader, Young led the team with 57 hits, 32 runs, 23 RBIs, 12 doubles, four triples, a .533 batting average, and a .580 on-base percentage in 31 games played. Despite not being an official high school student, she played well enough to earn first-team All-Conference, first-team West District, and first-team All-State, proving early on that she was talented.

“She was always talented in the state of Iowa,” Gillispie said about the star slugger. “[She] was always one of the top players, and we saw that her very first year. We knew that she was someone that we would need to get.”

Young’s first-year campaign was spectacular despite the season being cut short due to COVID-19. In 24 games, the 15-year-old logged 52 hits, 33 runs, 31 RBIs, 28 singles, 14 doubles, one triple, and nine home runs on a .571 batting average, a .602 on-base percentage, and a staggering 1.044 slugging percentage. She earned first-team All-Conference and All-State nominations once again, but this time around, her accolades were topped with her first state title.

Her second year saw a dip in production, but she was still one of the best players in the state. Young finished the season with 52 hits, 45 runs, 37 RBIs, 26 singles, 10 doubles, five triples, and 11 home runs on a .423 hitting average, .489 on-base percentage, and .854 slugging percentage in 38 games played.

The next season, Young put up arguably the best individual softball season in the history of Iowa, logging 83 hits, 70 runs, 55 RBIs, 35 singles, 22 doubles, four triples, and 22 home runs on a .624 hitting average, .685 on-base percentage, and a 1.346 slugging percentage. She earned her fourth first-team All-Conference and All-State honors.

In November 2022 after her third-year campaign, Young committed to staying home and playing softball for Iowa.

“I loved the idea of staying here, staying close to home playing for Iowa,” Young said of the Hawkeyes’ recruiting. “I remember seeing [Gillispie] at the state tournament when we played and talking to her after … I always grew up watching all [Iowa] sports.”

It was also around this time of year when Young tore her ACL playing basketball, putting her final year of high school softball in danger. She went on to miss the rest of the basketball season, the track and field season, and all the softball regular season.

In June 2023, the slugger was given one of the highest honors for any high school athlete when she was awarded 2022-23 Gatorade Iowa Softball Player of The Year.

“The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Young as Iowa’s best high school softball player,” Gatorade stated in their official press release.

A little over a month after, Young made her return to the field during the postseason, logging four singles and a home run to help Winterset win the 4A state title and her second high school title.

Fast forward to February 2024, and she’s looking forward to kicking off her collegiate career with the Hawkeyes, automatically becoming a key piece to the team.

“She’s actually got the starting nod at shortstop,” Gillispie spoke of Young’s role with the team. “She’s probably going to be one or two in the lineup. She’s a huge threat at the plate … she’s got home run power.”

Despite the high praise from her coach, Young doesn’t focus on what her expectations are but on the joy of playing the game and working to get better.

“I think just expectations, you try not to think about it a whole lot,” Young said. “My goal this year is just to adapt to playing college softball and just enjoy every moment with all my teammates.”

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
Isabella Tisdale
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.