Warrior now sprints for Spartans

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2011

James Taylor, now a sophomore at Norfolk State, won six state championships in his senior year at Nansemond River including four at the VHSL Group AAA Indoor Championships, becoming the first athlete to win four titles in the same state indoor meet. Taylor set new personal bests in the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes this past weekend in a meet at Virginia Tech.

James Taylor won seven individual state track crowns and two state titles on Nansemond River relay teams. He made Virginia prep sports history as a Warrior senior becoming the first athlete to win four individual state championships in the same indoor meet.

Two things off the track slowed him down for a year, the SAT and NCAA rules.


Taylor missed one year from the Norfolk State track team for being academically ineligible.

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“Academically ineligible” sounds bad. It sounds as though it’s something a young person might not rebound from, academically or athletically.

A few meets into his sophomore season back as a Spartan sprinter, Taylor’s already back in form athletically setting new personal records.

Even apart from track, the one-year penalty has turned into a positive, maturing experience. It’s something Taylor wouldn’t trade.

“Actually, I don’t even regret it. Now I kind of think all freshmen should sit out and do what I was able to do,” Taylor said.

The whole episode seems closer to a bureaucratic technicality anyway rather than a penalty Taylor should’ve paid a price for.

Potential NCAA athletes must meet a sliding scale with their GPA and an SAT or ACT score. Taylor took the SAT as a senior and he admits he fouled up his first attempt.

“I looked at the test and I just didn’t get it. I put the pencil down and went to sleep for part of it,” Taylor said.

After his first SAT, he was told what the test means to his college future. He took SAT tutoring and his second attempt, now fully awake literally and figuratively, improved by more than 1,000 points.

“They didn’t believe it. The score wasn’t accepted right away since it looked like I must have cheated or whatever,” Taylor said.

He took the test again, to validate his second score, and he raised his score a little more. Neither his second or third score was accepted until after the enrollment deadline at Norfolk St. Taylor’s first SAT score was the only one on the books.

Taylor’s GPA, during high school or in his first year at NSU, was never a problem.

“My GPA’s up to 2.9 now and I’m doing well there,” Taylor said.

At Nansemond River, Taylor was involved in a number of extracurricular groups such as being the drum major of the NRHS marching band, in addition to his athletic commitment and accomplishments.

“This situation actually gave me the chance to understand college, do some other things on my own and understand campus better,” Taylor said. “I’ve gotten involved in a lot of organizations. I’m the sophomore class president.”

“Being in these different organizations allows me to network with other people I wouldn’t have otherwise known. Having connections in college is the best thing,” he said.

“I’m excited where I am now. I don’t regret what has happened. I’m here for my education and I’m getting my education,” he said.

He was able to practice with the Spartans for the first 45 days of last season, but no more after that. He worked with his high school coaches, but mostly just on weekends.

“It was kind of hard. I’m in college and having fun with that. I wanted to go have more fun. I wasn’t competing and I’m still training? But it was part of growing up,” Taylor said.

“I want to pursue track beyond college and I know I have to do these things to go further,” he said.

In the first meet this winter Taylor posted good times in the 60 and 400-meter dashes, but they weren’t up to his standards.

“My Norfolk State coaches and my high school coaches said, ‘you just have to do your time. If you keep training you know you’ll see the results,’” he said.

Last weekend, Taylor set new personal bests in the 60 and 200 in a meet at Virginia Tech. In the 200, he clocked in at 21.08. His best 200 in high school was 21.32.

He ran the 60 in 6.72 seconds in the preliminary heat and the final. Running the same time back-to-back in the same meet was an optimistic sign. “It means I have room for improvement,” Taylor said.

Taylor and the Spartans are looking ahead to a meet at Penn State this weekend where they’ll run in the 4×400-meter relay.

“We’re pretty fast and we’ve been working. We look like we can be a premier team,” Taylor said.

Goals down the line include the MEAC Championships, the NCAA National Championships and Taylor even notes, “this is a World Championship year.” The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) World Championships are set for August in South Korea.

While “academically ineligible” is still something any potential college recruit would rather avoid if given the option, Taylor proves it’s possible to turn a brief setback into many lasting positives.