Noah and Josephus Lyles sat down for a Skype interview with Johanna "Jojo" Gretschel of MileSplit last week to discuss their outstanding post-season run in 2015. Josephus was fresh off the plane from Cali, Colombia, where he traveled to represent Team USA for the IAAF World Youth Championships and earn silver in the 400m (45.46) and bronze in the 200m (20.74). Noah heads to Edmonton, Canada this weekend to compete in the 100m and 200m at the Pan-American Junior Athletics Championships after sweeping both events (U.S. No. 4 All-Time 10.14, U.S. No. 3 All-Time 20.18) at the USATF Junior Nationals in June. The lively brothers are rising seniors at T.C. Williams High School in Va., and as two of the all-time greatest sprinters in prep history, are well on their way to making sure that football is not the only thing to remember about the Titans. Watch the video above for highlights from the interview and read the full transcript below.*
MileSplit: Josephus, can you tell us about your experience in Colombia? What was it like over there?
J: It was awesome just being around all those fast people. The weather there was pretty good. It was at altitude while we were training for a little bit, it was so hard, hurting to breathe and everything but then we finally got used to that.
How would you evaluate your races and performance through the rounds of the 200 and 400?
J: The 400, I feel great about. Getting through all those rounds, dropping the 45, getting second. The goal was always gold but I’m very content with my 45.4. After the 400, I was a little banged up just with my leg. I hyperextended just a little bit in the semi-finals. I wasn't even sure I was gonna run [the 200], I was just happy to get through it.
Josephus Lyles on the medal stand in Cali, Colombia after winning silver in the 400m with a new personal best of 45.46 at the IAAF World Youth Championships.
Did you think about not racing the 200m?
J: It was my last race of the season, it was my only race, so I just prayed to god.
Could you feel any pain in your leg as you raced the 200 finals or were you just racing on adrenaline at that point?
J: I could feel it when I was warming up. I got on the track and I got a pretty good start and once I started accelerating… all I could think, ‘I just gotta go, I just gotta give it everything I got.’
Did you have any time goals on your mind heading into this meet?
J: I definitely had a couple time goals. I was definitely shooting for… in the 200m - 20.50, 20.40. In the 400m, that 44 was looking really nice. I was definitely shooting for that. Always getting my time goals… even if they’re far out there.
Josephus took bronze in the 200m at the IAAF World Youth Championships with a personal best of 20.74.
You two split up at these different meets. Watching Noah compete at USATF Juniors, how did that inspire you to compete at Worlds?
J: I was super excited when I saw him. He was running all these fast times, he was beating everybody. I was just super hype. I was like, ‘it’s my turn, I gotta get it, it’s time.’
And Noah, is that how you felt watching Josephus race this past weekend?
N: I’m still a little hype because I watched him run. And I was like, ‘ahh, I gotta run something fast!’ I was walking around the house because I’ve been taking a break for a while because I figured out this year for training, taking breaks is the best way to train for me. I'm just rundown, a little beat up from this year. When I saw [Josephus run], I was ready to go to practice, I wanted to do something fast. My coach said, ‘yeah, go take a break.’
You’ve taken a break since Nationals in Eugene?
N: For three weeks, I didn't do anything. I didn't want to do anything that would put more pressure on my body. We already have a long season.
So when you say three weeks off, do you mean no physical activity or are you doing cross training?
N: The only physical activity I’m doing is maybe going outside.. maybe some basketball. No track related stuff.
Noah Lyles (center) swept the 100m and 200m at USATF Junior Nationals in Eugene, Ore. in June.
Are you training this week? Have you started training again to get ready for Pan-Ams?
N: I trained a little bit last week, not that much. Pool workouts. I had a small, small track meet to get my self back on the boat. I did the 100m. I was supposed to do the 200m, but it got rained out. In the 100m, I ran like 10.50. This was actually on Saturday [7/18], actually my birthday…
J: It’s my birthday today (7/22).
Oh, happy birthday! What are you guys doing to celebrate?
J: Well, I got back at 1 a.m. this morning. We’ll have some crabs.
Do you do the whole crab feast thing and get the mallets out?
J: We get the hands dirty. We get the newspaper out, crack it open.
Noah, how is your training still adjusting as you head towards Pan-Ams and what are your goals for Pan-Ams?
N: My goals are pretty big, we can talk about those later… My training has just been a little bit of endurance to keep my body up to pace so I can be strong for my races.
What kind of workout did you do today?
N: I didn't have a workout today, I actually went to the chiropractor.
Are you in the pool a lot?
N: At this time, I actually am in the pool a lot.
Josephus, are you in the pool also?
J: Well, now I’m done… [but]…we usually do pool workouts after big track meets if our body needs a break, like after the trials for World Youth. Pool workouts are pretty frequent. Just not on your body too much.
Do you think that pool workouts are one of the things that has allowed you to extend your season so long into the end of July and August?
N: I think the biggest factor with our season being so long while still running great times is… we kind of go incognito. We don't run anything too fast [in April, May].
That’s right. You guys were pretty low key this spring until the Virginia state meet into New Balance and then world level meets. Is it hard to go so many months without dropping big times?
J: It’s so hard.
N: It’s so hard!
J: [During] that May time period, that’s when we train really hard. We do pool workouts to take the pressure off our body. It’s hard to watch all these people drop all these fast times in like May, like when you see these people racing at Arcadia and you wanna be there too.
N: We want to go to Arcadia so bad this year! It’s like, ‘ahh!’ They’re talking about it but we have no idea. Maybe a 4x400m.
T.C. Williams set a nation-leading time of 3:12.17 in the 4x400m trials at The Penn Relays. They went on to place fourth as the top American team in the Championship of America final.
Speaking of relays… What about your Penn Relays experience? That is a time when you’re probably not in your peak physical shape, right?
Josephus and Noah led T.C. Williams to the Championship of America finals in both the 4x100m and 4x400m at The Penn Relays, as the Titans finished as the top American team in both relays with final times of 40.84 and 3:13.97 for fifth place and fourth place overall behind Jamaican winners. The 4x400m trials stood out in particular as Noah and Josephus split 45.6 and 45.71, respectively, for a then-U.S. No. 1 time of 3:12.17.
J: It was actually funny, because our coach did not expect us to do that. After the 4x400m, he was just like, ‘I don’t know where those 45s came from.’
N: Our coach was pretty surprised… he said, ‘I wasn't training you guys to do that, where’d you learn to do that?’
Is winning Penn Relays going to be a big goal next spring?
N: Oh yeah, that is the goal.
J: I want that big [Penny]!
Winning The Penn Relays is a big goal for the Lyles brothers and their T.C. Williams Titans squad after finishing fourth and fifth in the 4x400m and 4x100m, respectively, this spring.
Noah, I did see you said something about taking down Usain Bolt’s junior record. Can you tell us about that?
N: Almost every day after the 200m in Oregon, I just keep watching the video and I see how much I slow down at the line, which is actually funny because I didn't mean to do that at all. My actual foot was on fire, ‘cause I ran so fast I put a hole in my sock. The friction with my spike was just causing pain, I was just trying to make it through the line. In the video, it looked like it could have been 19 right there. I am determined now to run 19. I don't want to just run 19… I’m definitely going after Usain Bolt’s [19.93, the World Junior Record]. I'm trying to run like 19.90 and I just made my 100 goal yesterday. My sister, I was like, ‘Abby, Abby, make a goal for me,’ she's like, ‘I don’t know 100 times like that!’ …We had to go through this whole thing, like, ‘9s are fast, 9.60 [is the American Record] and… and she was like, ‘9.6! ohh, uhh, 9.90…ok!’ [laughs]
N: She never hugs us.
J: Oh, she hugs me.
N: She only hugs us when we do big things.
J: She doesn't like us.
N: We have hang out with her and try to make her laugh.
Now, is she a track star, too?
J: She does not like track.
N: But she knows so much about it.
Is she your biggest fan?
N: No, not even close [laughs].
J: She doesn’t even know what track meets we are going to half the time. I came back last year and I was like, ‘Abby, I won!’ when I won Nationals last year. And she was happy I won Nationals.
N: The next day, she was like, ‘why is everyone calling Mom and asking about you guys?’ ‘Nationals!’ ‘Oh, that’s nice.’
Josephus, how does it feel to hear your brother talk about going after some of Usain Bolt’s records?
J: It’s great. I definitely think he can do it… I just can’t wait to see him actually run it. I just get so hyped when I see him run. Especially when I was at Juniors. Me and my mom were watching it and we were on the computer. My phone was delayed a little bit so we had to watch on the computer. We saw how fast he was and went crazy. I was just jumping up and down in the house going crazy. It’s a pleasure to see him run and when I hear him talk about running 9s, I know he can do it.
Noah, that USATF Juniors 200m race was the first ever time that you faced Michael Norman, that X factor from California. How much did you follow what he had done this season, what were your thoughts heading into it and what did it mean to beat him?
N: Josephus told me coming back from Nike Elite camp [last summer] to keep an eye on him because ‘he might be faster than you next year.’
J: I didn't say he was faster, I said he was going to be fast.
N: So we are finishing up indoors, and now we are starting to hear about Mike, how he’s starting to do something. He just went 20.7… That’s nice, I went 20.7 last year. Ok… he gets faster. We go to Penn Relays. I heard he ran 45 at Arcadia and I’m like, ‘yea, he’s pretty good. That’s not the 200, but that’s pretty good.’
Then we get closer to June and it’s like he just ran 20.3 with a huge head wind. And I was like, ‘that’s pretty fast…’ Then he ran 20.4 and I was like, ‘okay, this is getting pretty serious… He just went 20.3! Okay, it’s time to come up. It’s time to do something. I can’t let him take MVP now.’
‘Cause then he ran the 45.19 and I was like… ‘This guy is serious.’ Just knowing that he had all that speed I was like, ‘alright, he’s going to push me.’
Josephus said, ‘he’s so nice, though, so you might have a hard time trying to fight him as the enemy,’ I was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He said, ‘dude, you will see.’
When I met him, he was the nicest guy. And I was like, ‘dang,’ but you know when you come to the track, you have to put all that aside. I saw him get out there and I was like, ‘it’s time to use my technique,’ and I just ran all through the curve and gave it all I got. I came off that curve and I felt so fast. I just went by everybody like [snaps]. If my foot wasn’t on fire! I would have been pushing for it. I was still super excited about the time.
To repeat that story you said earlier, you said you made a hole in your sock? From running?
N: At Trials, they were my favorite socks… red and white Nike Elite socks. I put them on and there was no hole. I got done with Trials, my foot’s burning. I slip off my spike and I’m looking and there’s a huge hole. I’m like, ‘Where did this come from?!’ We had to drive back to the hotel real quick because there was only like an hour before the next race. Drove back, took a cold shower, put on a different pair of socks. I could still feel it. It was a friction burn so it still hurt. Running on it at the end really hurt it. I was trying to finish the race and I was like, ‘come on, all the way through! stop hurting!’
Are you ready to do that again at Pan-Ams?
N: I’m definitely ready. My whole life has been leading up to this. I’m ready to go. Take it easy now, as soon as we hit the track, I know my nerves gonna be going, the adrenaline. I’m hoping Michael O’Hara is there because I have been dying to race him.
What would it mean to beat Michael O’Hara?**
N: Every year, there is one person that beats me. Sophomore year, Trentavis [Friday, the National High School record holder for 100m]. My freshman year… Michael O’Hara got on the list when I went to World Youth Championships. [O’Hara won the 200m in 20.63 while representing Jamaica in 2013]. It’s been two years since I last faced him. The only time I’ve come close to going up against him is in relays at Penn Relays. Now we will be able to go head to head and I’ll be ready. I’m ready. I need to knock him off the list. He has been on my list for two years.
It’s pretty cool thinking about this as the rivalries between you guys and someone like Michael O’Hara and the guys from Calabar and St. Jago is like the next generation of Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay versus Usain Bolt. Do you guys think about it like that?
N: I definitely do. Definitely the people you run up against in all these World Youth and World Juniors [meets] are definitely people we will be facing down the road.
Michael O'Hara (green) led Calabar of Jamaica to the Championship of America titles in both the 4x100m and 4x400m at The Penn Relays. T.C. Williams finished fourth in the 4x400m and fifth in the 4x100m finals.
What do you learn from going and competing internationally and why would you encourage someone to try out for a world team if they are on the fence about it?
J: You definitely learn about the next step in track. High school is planned and everything...
N: But it’s the lowest level.
J: It’s very mundane. You’re looking at national meets and get to meet all these people. You get to learn what real running is. It’s not just running like two rounds and stuff. It’s all fast. When you go against international teams, you get to experience new things. It’s like a stepping stone to the next level. You get to experience things you wouldn’t be able to do in high school… You have to be at your race 45 minutes before. You have to do certain things here and there. You get to compete against better athletes and not just [meet] the athletes but the higher-up [people], chairman of USA track and field. He gets to talk to you and be friends with you. It’s the next step to being great. So in high school, you can run fast times, in college, you can run fast times, but there are so many other things you have to do. You have to run fast times at certain races… multiple times.
N: You gotta know when to let up for the next round.
What was the biggest cultural shock you had in Colombia? Did it feel much different from the United States?
J: It actually didn't feel that much different, it was pretty modern, everybody had iPhones and stuff. We got to do a little sight seeing, top of all the mountains… The people like to take pictures a lot, a lot more than anywhere else I've been.
Who was your roommate?
J: Keshun Reed, I didn't know him at all before but now I know him really well. I can’t wait to see him again.
Thinking about next year, have you guys thought about colleges and where you might want to go?
N: Oh, yeah, we have… there is going to be a day for that.
What are your goals for next year? What do you want to do before you graduate from high school?
J: We are in fact going to the Olympic Trials next year. Our hotel is booked, our flight is booked.
N: We already got the ‘A’ qualifier.
J: We’re going to the Olympic Trials next year, we want to make that team. I'm just gonna do the 400m.
N: I’m actually gonna do the 100m and the 200m [and try to make the team for the relays].
Josephus and Noah Lyles have grand plans for their final year at T.C. Williams High School in Virginia.
Have you raced against professionals before?
N: Unfortunately, I haven’t gone up against professionals, I've gone up against college runners.
J: Yeah, definitely ready though.
What would it mean to make the team as a high schooler? That’s the goal, right?
J: In the 2012 Olympics, we were in eighth grade going to ninth grade and we were at JOs [Junior Olympics] for like USATF and we were watching the Olympics and we were like, ‘we’re gonna make the 2016 Olympics when we get put of high school.’
N: We were looking at the mile relay and looking at each other like, ‘we’re gonna do that, we’re gonna do that in four years, that’s what we’re gonna do!’
*This interview has been edited for succinctness.
**This interview took place before the official start list for Pan-Am Juniors was released. Michael O’Hara is not on the list.