new gymnastics coach is introduced

Edward Rudman Sports Writer

The Owls gymnastics team has a lot to look forward in 2021, and that all starts with the hiring of new head coach Byron Knox.

As a Southern alum, Knox said the timing to take over the reins as head coach was just right.

“The opportunity arose last year, but with not having all my ducks lined up I wasn’t able to take part in that,” said Knox. “When the opportunity arose again, I made an effort and thankfully I was chosen.”

Looking to the future, Knox said he has high expectations for his new team and wants to do things his way, starting by getting right down to business.

“I would like to hit the ground running, I think we have enough talent to compete right away, if the athletes buy into philosophy of training, I think we can make our mark,” said Knox.

Beam and floor gymnast, Keara Loughlin, a senior, said much like Byron, she also has high expectations going into the season.

“My expectations are high going into the season, we have a great group of dedicated individuals who are willing to work hard,” said Loughlin.

Besides being a Southern alum, Knox said that he has been involved in gymnastics for many years at a very high level. At the start of his career, Knox said he did not have interest in coaching women’s gymnastics until he saw the amount of dedication.

“I didn’t have much interest in coaching women at the time. The key thing that created desire to coach wasn’t the sport of women’s gymnastics, but the kids,” said Knox.

At the start of his career, Knox started working with youth gymnastics and then went on to the college level. Knox said giving the people the opportunity to compete like he did gives him great joy.

“I think he is going to push me to become the best athlete I can be and make me give 110 percent,” said Loughlin.

The hiring of Knox ends the top-notch career of Jerry Nelson, who was the gymnastics coach for many years. Knox said filling those shoes will be a big challenge for himself but believes he can ride the waves of Nelson’s success.

“Jerry ran a very successful program with who he recruited, two different styles that worked but I will need to assess the situation once I get there,” said Knox.

Assessing the situation, Knox said his plan is to serve one student athlete at a time with emphasis on academics with hopes of a championship down the line.

If the season occurs it will also come with its own trials and tribulations if it occurs due to the presence of COVID-19. Practices have not started yet, so the athletes have had no contact with their new coach.

“We haven’t really had any contact with Byron, although I do know of him from his success at Bridgeport,” said Loughlin. The COVID-19 situation is a matter that Knox said he takes very seriously.

“We want to follow school policy, we don’t want to put anyone at a risk over sports, safety is number two so being healthy and safe is the key,” said Knox.

Looking forward to his first practice, Knox said his plan is to create a level of fitness with the team that will allow them to go through the rigors of the sport.

Knox said he does not expect this change to happen overnight, but if the athletes follow the program, he is confident they will be able to do it if committed.

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