Reesey Byers overcame challenges that could have deterred his path toward becoming the face of the Sacramento State cross country team.
A native of Bakersfield, Calif., Byers was born 3 months early and weighed only 2 pounds and 15 ounces. The doctors told his mother that he would not make it, but he would prove them wrong.
During his youth, Byers struggled with people telling him he was not good enough and battled asthma. He is able to control the asthma with the use of an inhaler, but still deals with the effects of it today.
“It was always thought that I was going to grow up and not live a normal life,” Byers said. “I have had some people in my past say I can’t do this and can’t do that, but I proved them wrong.”
Byers was introduced to running when he was in middle school and immediately fell in love with the idea of being able to run fast.
“My family knew I loved to run,” he said. “Most of my friends, as well as my P.E. teacher said I should try out for track. Running competitively was a scary thought, but I really loved running so I gave it a shot.”
It was a decision he would not regret, as he would excel at the sport in middle school and high school. He attended Santa Rosa High School, where each year he improved.
He remembers being motivated by those who were older than him because they would beat all his times.
“At the beginning of my freshman year, I was working hard but I was nowhere near the level of the people I am running with now,” he said. “They were beating me by a minute or so, so that motivated me.”
In his freshman year of high school, he ran 4:45 in the mile and improved each year thereafter with times of 4:38 and 4:21 in his sophomore and junior years, respectively. His senior year would be his standout season as he ran 4:11 in the mile, and 8:19 in the 3k, which ranked second fastest in the nation during that time.
His options were endless when it came to deciding what college he wanted to continue his running career at. However, it came down to choosing between UC Berkeley and Sac State.
“I took visits to both schools and met the coaches and the teams,” he said. “I just felt like Sac State was the right environment both academically and athletically. I connected with the coaches and and immediately got close with the team and they were very welcoming.”
Byers remembered the way the coaches at Berkeley welcomed him when he met with them, citing the encounters as a reason for choosing Sac State.
“The coaches at Berkeley kind of gave me that feeling that I was just another guy they would throw in,” he said. “I felt like Sac State was willing to work with me and get me where I wanted to be.”
When he arrived, he showed the Sac State coaches that he could live up to the hype that surrounded him.
In his freshman year, he had the eighth highest finish in school history at the Big Sky meet with a time of 23:15.09. His sophomore year would bring more improvement as he qualified for the Big Sky Championship in both the 800m and the 5k.
There was one bump in the road when it was announced in the 2013 offseason that coach Scott Abbott would be leaving his post. It was at this time that Byers debated transferring to the University of Oregon, but decided against doing so.
Joe Eby replaced Abbott and Byers decided it would be a good idea to have a sit down with his new coach to see what he was about.
“I decided to give the new coach a shot and I’m glad we ended up with coach Eby,” he said. “I think he is a big step forward and I think he will take us to the next level.”
The praise would be mutual as Eby was impressed with Byers from the first day they met.
“I knew Reesey was a super talented individual by looking at his times and I watched a couple of his races online,” Eby said. “One of my first days here we went to lunch and it was good getting to know him. He’s a really good guy and he’s super excited about life and running.”
In fact, to this point Eby has been so impressed with Byers that he said he was the best runner he has ever coached, saying the star runner has the potential to be a professional.
“He is the most talented kid I’ve ever seen and he can do some things that I haven’t seen or heard other people do,” Eby said. “I think that if we continue to get him going in this positive direction, then he’s a kind of guy that could be be running at the Olympic trials and trying to qualify for the Olympics.”
Eby said that if Byers continues to believe in himself, then he has the ability to make it to the next level and more.
“I want to make it to the USA Championships in June here at Sac State,” Byers said. “It is rewarding when all your hard work pays off and it opens my eyes to, ‘OK, I can be one of the best guys in the nation.’”