By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)
T.C. Williams has a strong pedigree of producing track and field stars, and have unearthed another gem in the form of Noah Lyles, a junior sprinter who has risen to national prominence.
Lyles helped the Titans win the state outdoor track and field championships earlier this year, picking up gold medals indoors and outdoors in both individual sprints and the 4×400 meters relay.
The 17-year-old then traveled to Nanjing, China in August for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, where he won gold in the 200 meters with a time of 20.80 seconds. It was the first time an American had won gold at the competition, and was his second international tournament, having also competed in the 2013 World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine.
He was nominated for U.S. Track and Field’s Youth Athlete of the Year award, but lost out to Texas sprinter Myles Marshall.
Lyles has developed alongside his equally talented younger brother Josephus, another sprinter with T.C. who has garnered national recognition of his own.
“The difference between my sophomore year and my freshman year would probably have to be overall growth,” Noah Lyles said. “I don’t think too much has changed, as in both years I didn’t do a lot of weight training, we tried to always focus on my starts.
“Overall, I think my body has started growing and got a little stronger by itself and I just keep training.”
T.C. track coach Mike Hughes said he has worked with few athletes as gifted as Lyles.
“[His talent] is way off scale,” Hughes said. “I have some experience. I’ve been coaching for 35 years and have worked at the collegiate level so have seen this caliber of athlete at the collegiate level.”
The gold medal at the Youth Olympics Games is a highlight for Lyles, having won only silver with the U.S. medley relay team in Ukraine.
“My freshman year when I did it [in Ukraine], I really was happy but I couldn’t really feel it as much as when I went to China,” he said. “In China I went for an individual event, and when you’re running by yourself and you’re representing your country, it feels so much better.
“I crossed the finish line and went crazy. I was super excited, I flashed back to all the pain I went through over the hard work I’ve done.”
For Hughes, seeing one of his young charges winning gold for the U.S. was a moment that will live long in his memory.
“It’s a thrill of a coaching career,” he said. “Kids like that come by once in a life cycle. That was really impressive.”
T.C.’s track team impressed greatly at April’s Penn Relays, held at the University of Pennsylvania, where they finished as the top American squad.
“One of my [brother Josephus’] goals was to reach the Penn Relays finals,” Lyles said. “Truthfully, I doubted him all the way; I did not think we were going to go to finals.
“I’m always going with my brother’s plans because he wants to achieve greatness. We were excited; we already knew what we wanted to split. As soon as we saw our time, we were all going crazy.”
One of the biggest challenges for any student-athlete is maintaining the balance between athletics and schoolwork. However, with the support of his parents and teachers, Lyles is hopeful of success in the classroom.
“I wasn’t too happy last year with my grades,” he said. “They were decent, but I knew I could do better and my mom knew I could do better.
“This year, I’m actually focusing to keep both of them balanced; I’m trying to be a student-athlete. My mom always stresses that on me and my brother.”
A possible collegiate career is already in the back of Lyles’ mind with a number of Division I schools declaring their interest, although he already is leaning towards the University of Florida.
With the indoor track season underway, Hughes believes his young sprinter is more than capable of coping with the pressure that comes with being a top athlete.
“He didn’t come by this overnight, he grew into it and he’s well aware of that,” Hughes said. “[He’s] hard-working, got a lot of ability, but a lot to learn about his racing. His improvements are going to come from his mental development and racing techniques and training techniques.”
After a strong 2014, the future looks bright for Lyles, another Titans track star that has the potential to make waves on the senior international circuit.