Noah Lyles, a junior at T.C. Williams High School, became the United States National Champion for 200 meters, setting a new meet record, national junior record and becoming the all-time U.S. number two over that distance. He ran the distance in 20.83 seconds.
Noah, 17, also came close to winning the 60 meter final, which required a photo-finish to put him in second place. The scoreboard showed him recording a time of 6.65, the same time as the winner.
His brother, Josephus, 16, came in third place in the 400 meter final with a time of 47.35. Days earlier at the Virginia State Track meet, he placed number one in the U.S. in the 500 meters with a time of 1:03:57. There, the T.C. Williams team of seven athletes became Virginia State Track Champions despite fielding a team that was less than half the size of other teams. The Lyles brothers and five other runners entered race after race, even when they were exhausted, to see the high school come out on top.
“I felt good. I thought I could do it. But this is a team sport and people don’t realize but you can’t achieve anything without the full team, behind you. Our coach at T.C. is really good and gets up just right for the big track meets. Our team wasn’t the favorite to win the state meet, but we worked hard and came away with the overall victory,” Noah said.
When the Lyles brothers graduate from T.C. Williams in 18 months’ time, they both aim to become professional runners and follow in the footsteps of their father, Kevin Lyles, who ran for the United States in the World Championship 400 meter relay team in 1995.
Their father and mother, who met through running, both brought them up to see it as a part of normal life. The brothers, born a year apart in Gainesville, Florida, would go to the track with their father as very young children and play on the high jump mats and use the long jump pit as a sandpit.
“It was a dream childhood. We were homeschooled as mom was a stay-at-home mom. We would finish our school work in the morning and then jump in the pool in the back yard, throw some hoops or go to the track with our dad,” said Josephus.
The boys have fond memories of Florida and love to go back and catch up with their old neighborhood friends.
“Gainesville is small and everyone knows each other. More than that, it’s warm. Runners like the warmth. Eighty degrees is just about perfect for running. Your body is warm and your joints are supple. It’s really just too cold here in Alexandria for serious running,” said Noah.
This winter was particularly difficult because the brothers have had to train largely indoors. Snow, ice and freezing temperatures prevented them from training on the outdoor track. Instead of the 400 meter repeats they should have been running on the track, they were doing 30 meter repeats inside the T.C. Williams’ gyms.
The Virginia State Championships were postponed so many times due to inclement weather that they were finally held less than a week ahead of the nationals. Therefore the brothers only had a few days in which to recover between the State and National Championships. Instead of training, they spent their time with a chiropractor getting their bodies back in shape ready for this weekend’s competition.
“Because of the cold it has been very difficult to train and we have not had as much outdoor training as we would have liked. But, thanks to the great team we have around us, we were ready for the competition. I felt good about it. We both did,” said Josephus.
Off the track at home, the boys’ diet is watched carefully by their mother, a government social worker who works with people with disabilities. She has brought her sons up on a healthy diet of leafy vegetables, which they have grown to love over the years.
“I like the greens but I don’t like fruit and we get sugar once in a while. But most people don’t understand that just because you are burning a lot of calories you can’t eat whatever you want. I like junk food, but you need the good stuff, the iron, and the vitamins. That’s what helps us be good at what we do,” said Noah.
“Mom has brought us up to be runners. Both our parents are involved. But she is a pretty big part of our running. She comes to all our track meets, no matter how far away they are,” adds Josephus.
Their mother is also strict about their grades in school and has brought them up to see education as an important part of their lives. The brothers laugh and finish each other’s sentences as they talk about how their mother has taught them that even if they do not like it, they still have to play the game of life.
“I love to learn. I love to be immersed in knowledge,” said Josephus, who is taking as many AP classes as possible and whose favorite subject is world history.
They reel off a list of colleges where they would like to study in the future – all of them in warm places.
“He might have a list, I’m just going to Florida. I like Alexandria. It’s just way too cold,” laughs Noah.
The brothers, who moved to Alexandria in seventh grade with their mother, train for two or three hours after school with T.C. Williams coach Rashawn Jackson. Training, along with time away for regular track meets, makes it difficult to complete homework assignments and get good grades.
This winter, Coach Jackson had the boys lay out rubber matting down the corridors of T.C. Williams so that they could get long enough stretches of track on which to train.
“When I’m rich and famous, I’m going to install an indoor track at T.C. Williams so that athletes can practice all year round,” said Josephus.
As for all the medals, trophies, certificates and rings they win, the boys have a stash of shoe boxes for them in their closet. When they get too full, they start throwing them away.
“Neither of us find value in metal. We both run for the love of it. There is far more to running than a trophy or a medal. It’s a real passion,” said Josephus.