Local track team national Nike champions

By Shawn Nowlin 

From left– Assistant Coach Tra Wilson with team members Daron Wilson, Peyton Lewis, Johnathan Vernon, Josh Persinger, and Head Coach Darryl McCoy

There is something to be said about a coach that can get their performers to believe they have the potential to accomplish something special and then use whatever motivational tactic is required to turn that potential into a reality. 

Salem High track and field head coach Darryl McCoy and assistant coach Tra Wilson conveyed a simple message to their athletes at the start of the season: “We all collectively have the capability to do something special this year if everyone, including the coaches, performs their role to the best of their abilities.”  

A former athlete himself, McCoy knows what it takes to win at the highest level. Before graduating from William Fleming High School in 1998, he accepted a full athletic track and field scholarship to Virginia Tech. During his Tech career, he competed in the long jump and 60-meter dash, among other events. 

“As cliché as it sounds, hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. My college coaches regularly emphasized that. It’s rarer than rare to accomplish lofty goals without putting in the necessary work,” he said.  

Two years ago, when McCoy was hired to lead the Salem High track program, he knew that the only way to sustain a winning culture was to outwork the opposition. The results were almost immediate. While Salem High’s track program enjoyed success in the past, this year marked the first time the program was invited to New York City to participate in the Nike Indoor National Title. 

Additional members of Salem High Track & Field


The Ballout Track Club, comprised of student-athletes Jonathan Vernon, Josiah Persinger, Peyton Lewis, and DaRon Wilson, earned a time of 1:28:40 in the boy’s 4×200 meter relay race, the fastest in the nation. On Jan. 7, this same team clocked the fastest 4x200m relay time in the nation which led to an invitation from Nike to compete in their prestigious annual event. 

“A company rep saw us perform, introduced himself, and said he would like to sponsor the boys. He bought them all new gear and provided other financial contributions too. It was important to show that we weren’t just hype, we were indeed the real deal,” McCoy said. “We had to rename ourselves from any high school affiliation because it is a Virginia rule that high schools cannot be represented outside of non-sanctioned state meets.” 

On March 10, the team, because they were sponsored, had their names and faces on a huge video board in Times Square, something both coaches stressed they should cherish for the rest of their lives.  

More important than being a high school track champion, McCoy wants his players to become champions in life. “I couldn’t be prouder of what this team accomplished,” he said. “These kids aren’t just athletes, I consider them family. Wherever life takes them, they know that I will always be just one phone call away to help them in any way I can.”