Byron leaves NR for Cornell

Published 12:01 am Saturday, August 18, 2018

Longtime Nansemond River High School track coach will head to the college level after six years producing champions for the Warriors.

After building Nansemond River up to be one of the most successful track programs in the nation, Coach Justin Byron has accepted a coaching job at Cornell University. Cornell is an NCAA Division I Ivy League school in New York.

Cornell reached out to Byron about the opportunity, and with a lot of thought, he decided to take the job. He will get to work immediately. Byron also had an offer to coach at his alma mater, North Carolina A&T, but felt the Cornell opportunity was best.

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“They showed me a lot of love out there,” Byron said. “It was a tough decision from having to leave Virginia and turning down other offers. But I felt like this was best. I felt like I was ready to make a jump, and I am excited about the new challenge.”

Byron’s returning athletes were shocked at the change. He mentioned that he came right out and let them know what was going on instead of sugar coating. At first, everyone thought it was a joke, but then tears started to flow, and congratulations were in order for their now former coach.

Coach Justin Byron with 2015-2016 Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year Brandee’ Johnson. Byron recently announced he will move up to the college ranks to coach at Cornell University. (Submitted Photo)

“I am just thankful for it all,” Byron said. “It is so much love from the school and the city. I am just so appreciative of everything.”

When thinking about Byron’s impact, it is easy to think of the state championships and national titles. However, Byron made it a point to have Team WAR make an impact in the community of Suffolk as well.

“Coach Byron laid the foundation for our track program and has created a legacy for our school,” NRHS Athletic Director Kristy Brett said. “Over the past several years, he has coached a track program that was consistently successful at the region, state and national levels. Our track student-athletes were provided many opportunities to graduate and compete at top-notch colleges and universities throughout the country. While it was a sad day for our track program, the Nansemond River High School community congratulates Coach Byron on an amazing career and wish him continued success at the next level.”

“His impact was felt not only at the school but by the community,” said Toy Redding, mother of program alumna Brandee’ Johnson. “He has trained some of the best athletes to come out of the state of Virginia. He not only cared about their track performance but also made sure they excelled in the classroom as well. Many of the athletes out of NRHS were earning scholarships, and that was unheard of. Each year, he is helping more and more student-athletes get into college by helping them improve in track. His reputation precedes him, and he truly cares about athletes and their families.”

Byron spent time at Green Run High School before coming to Nansemond River.

Coach Byron’s coaching highlights include 10 National All-Time top-10 performances, 14 National Titles, 16 individual All-Americans, 32 Relay All-Americans and four USA Junior/World Youth medals.

He has won four indoor state championships and five outdoor state championships while also holding 10 state records, 16 state meet records and 78 school records.

Has coached three Virginia Gatorade Players of the Year, a valedictorian, a salutatorian and two USA Olympic Trial qualifiers. Has won a total of nine Virginia High School League Coach of the Year awards (four indoor, five outdoor). Along with the VHSL Coach of the Year awards. He has two U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Coach of the Year awards.