NR’s Byron is MileStat.com Coach of the Year
Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2015
The Nansemond River High School track and field program has experienced a meteoric rise in the last few years.
The Lady Warriors have been racking up indoor and outdoor state championships at the Group 4A level and accomplishing All-American finishes in national events that have put the school on the map in the world of track and field.
MileStat.com recently drew attention to the man who has guided this rise, christening Justin Byron with its Coach of the Year honor.
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Byron was just coming back from a rare vacation when he learned the news. He said he landed in Atlanta, Ga., and checked his phone, noticing multiple text messages of congratulations from parents, college coaches and even athletes that do not go to Nansemond River.
He and Nansemond River were fresh off an inspired performance at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet, so “I thought they were just talking about the meet,” he said of the texts.
But then he noticed some of the messages were coming from Nansemond River athletes, which he thought was strange. One included a screenshot of the MileStat.com homepage, and he went to the site shortly thereafter to see the news.
He had been having a conversation on the plane with a retired teacher from Mississippi about their work helping young people, and this revelation brought their conversation full circle.
“That’s you,” he said the teacher noted when his picture popped up on the webpage.
Byron said that track and field in the state of Virginia is being performed at a very high level right now thanks to many good coaches.
“To kind of be recognized in the conversation with some of these coaches, you know what I mean, that’s special,” he said.
He deflected much of the praise for the honor to other people who help make the Nansemond River program work.
“What makes me look so good is the support from our parents and our school,” he said.
He said he is very demanding of the parents of his athletes, and they have responded with an all-in attitude.
His coaching, which he said benefited from coaches of his own like Ned Gunter, James Daniels, Brooks Johnson and Dwayne Miller, involves an athlete-centered orientation and championship preparation.
The athletes he has worked with spoke freely about what makes him such a great coach.
“His sacrifice,” said recent Nansemond River graduate Kara Lyles. “Coach B would take off of work, you know he’s a longshoreman, he would take off work just to come to practice or he would get off early just to come to practice.”
“He never takes a day off,” said NR rising senior Brandeé Johnson. “He’s always trying to get better at his coaching skills in order to make us better athletes.”
Recent NR graduate Zakiya Rashid noted he was willing to get in the trenches with his athletes to help encourage them.
“I know half the workouts that he gave us, if I couldn’t finish them, he would do them with me so I could,” she said.
Former Tabb High School star Kiara Porter, whom Byron helped train, said, “He really loves the sport of track and field,” and she noted he really enjoys helping athletes get to college through the sport.
She just finished an outstanding career at Virginia Commonwealth University, and is considering professional athletic opportunities.
Michael Cherry, former Oscar Smith High School star, expressed gratitude to Byron for helping him reach the next level.
“I would have never thought when I first met him that I would actually be running collegiately on a full scholarship going to Florida State (University),” he said.