Salem track running into national spotlight

‘We came up from nobody really knowing us to now we’re nationally ranked.’

SALEM, Va. – When you think of Salem High School, the football team and its dominance typically comes to mind. Rightly so with program boasting 10 VHSL State Championships in its history. But that’s changing.

“It makes me feel really good that football is good but that track is coming up real fast,” said Salem senior track athlete Dominic Wright.

“We’re unique,” said junior Peyton Lewis. “We came up from nobody really knowing us to now we’re nationally ranked.”

At the Liberty Premier Invitational in early January, the boys 4 x 200 relay team posted a new school and meet record--clocking a time of 1:28.23. It also proved to be the fastest time in the nation.

“I don’t think anyone has ever done this at Salem High School, number one in the country. That’s something huge for us and this track team,” said senior DaRon Wilson.

“The feeling is unmatched,” Lewis added. “When it first happened it didn’t set in but after they told us, took pictures, I got with my team and we all hugged it out.”

DaRon Wilson, Peyton Lewis, Jonathan Vernon and Josiah Persinger had a great 2022 campaign for Spartans football. While the season came to an end in the region final, the extra time allowed the football standouts to get a jump start for the indoor track season.

“Getting fast and playing football and being physical like Salem is and then coming down here running track it’s just like second nature,” Vernon said.

“Track goes to football and football goes to track and it just helps us stay in shape,” said Persinger after a recent meet in which he quailified for the state meet in the 55 meter dash.

The Spartans have an accomplished head coach who brings decades of experience in Darryl McCoy II.

Salem boys indoor track coach Darryl McCoy II (WSLS)

“I got them a lot earlier to be able to get them in the condition they needed to be in on the track coming from the football field,” McCoy said.

“Southwest Virginia, we’ve always had fast nationally ranked athletes. So my goal was to bring the attention back.”

The Roanoke native had a stellar career at Virginia Tech--even earning a conference championship in the long jump.

Darryl McCoy II competing during his college days at Virginia Tech (WSLS)

“He’s turned a lot of people into state champions and I feel he deserves a lot of recognition for that,” Wilson said.

Recognition that he doesn’t take alone.

“I have 2 magnificent assistant coaches that help. Tra Wilson helps with hurdles and takes over with the relay team and Stephanie Picado who is a phenomenal throws coach. All I want them to see is that when people believe in you and you put forth 90-100 days in something, you can do it.”

Salem track and field hurdles coach Stephanie Picado (left) (WSLS)

The 4 x 200 team currently ranks second in the nation and the ‘B’ team is also a few hundredths away from being nationally ranked also.

About the Author:

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.