‘Don’t let your sacrifices be in vain’

Published 7:35 pm Saturday, June 22, 2013

As the girls from the Nansemond River High School 4×200-meter relay team competed last week at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor 2013 competition, I asked their coach, Justin Byron, what was most challenging thing about it.

“As a former athlete, the most challenging aspect is to mentally get back up again,” he said.

He explained that the state championships are generally anticipated as the climax of the season, and nationals come a mere two weeks after that, on a bigger stage with even higher stakes.


Email newsletter signup

His athletes’ training plan is geared for them to be physically and mentally peaking in time for the state meet, and often they have no guarantee that they will be eligible for nationals, anyway.

“A lot of times, you have to get your qualifying marks at your state meet,” he said. “So you have to run as fast as you can at the state meet and then make sure that you’re resting, because your body’s done something amazing.”

This time of resting is not a quiet, uneventful period of the high school calendar.

“You now have two weeks in between where you have graduations, where you have proms, where you have recovery from just a long season,” Byron said.

At nationals, Kieaira Middleton, Mia McClain, Kara Lyles and Brandee Johnson performed well for Nansemond River, finishing third and fourth in two relay events. Johnson finished third in the freshman 400-meter dash, and the girls merited All-American honors in all three events.

I asked Byron how he thought they were able to meet the challenge.

“That’s where that mental toughness comes from, that they put in so much work that even though I know their bodies and their minds are fatigued at the end of the season, it’s just kind of like a determination, like, ‘Hey, I’ve put in way too much work to go out here and finish seventh and just miss All-American,’” he said. “I don’t think that they wanted to settle for that.”

He said the goal since the fall had been to succeed at the district, regional, state and national levels. As they reach these levels, he always tries to remind his kids, “Think back to the fall.”

Byron employs financial terms, reminding them of all the investments they have made, and that now is the time they need to cash out.

“I always stress to them, ‘Don’t let your sacrifices be in vain,’” he said.


Suffolk athlete named to all-conference team

Derek Wright of Suffolk was one of 166 Christopher Newport University Captains recently named to the 2012-13 Academic All-Conference team for the USA South Athletic Conference.

Wright, who played football for CNU this year, qualified for the honor by having a grade point average of at least 3.0 in both semesters in addition to playing a varsity sport.

There were 1,155 student-athletes out of 13 schools who received Academic All-Conference honors in the USA South this season.