Byers excels in the pool, dives into next chapter

Senior+John+Ryan+Byers+tucks+and+twists+through+the+air+during+his+dive+against+Belmont+High+School+December+12%2C+2019.+%28Photo+by+Joel+Schurgin%29

Senior John Ryan Byers tucks and twists through the air during his dive against Belmont High School December 12, 2019. (Photo by Joel Schurgin)

Will Ayinon

Senior John Ryan Byers walked to the end of the diving board and found his balance. Holding his position on the edge of the board, exactly one meter above the pool, he jumped once, twice, and, using the third bounce to catapult himself into a spectacular series of pikes, tucks and twists, slipped under the water with hardly a splash.

At the age of seven, Byers began diving lessons at Boston University. According to Byers, he “thought it would be fun, even though it seemed a little scary.” After one year, the coach of Charles River Diving noticed his talent and Byers soon joined his team. For eight years he has been practicing with Charles River Diving. Byers worked consistently on his dives from the moment he joined the team. “Diving can be really scary, especially when learning new dives, because there’s such a big chance of belly flopping,” he said.  “I have learned to put the fear aside and just stay focused on whatever dive I do, no matter how scary it is.”

Byers did not join North’s swim team until his sophomore year, and when he did, he set the 6-dive school record with a score of 294.55 and won the Bay State Conference Championship, becoming a Bay State All-Star in the process. Byers set the 11-dive record as well, scoring 479.15 points. He placed eighth that year at the Division 1 MIAA States scoring 436.45 points.

“His junior year, JR (what Byers is called by his friends) was one of the best divers in the state, and he was performing very hard and technical dives,”  said senior Max Schaefer, a captain with Byers, and seniors Colin Foley and Alexander Van Alstyne. “But coming into his senior year, he had a whole new list of dives that were twice as hard and he was doing them better than last year.”

As a junior, Byers beat his 6-dive school record from the previous year, with a score of 313.28. He went on to win the Bay State Championship again, becoming a Bay State All-Star for the second time. Byers won the South Sectional Championship as well. He improved at States and broke his 11-dive record with a score of 456.10. That year, he finished third in the state. At the end of the season, he was named a Boston Globe All-Scholastic athlete.

Elected captain as a senior,  Byers improved on his personal best score of 313.28 in the 6-dive event and set a new school record with a score of 325.65.

According to Shaefer, Byers is “a hard worker and great leader.” As a captain, he contributed to “building the structure the team needed to be successful.” He added, watching him, “was a pleasure for the whole team and gave us something to really rally around.”

Byers closed off his final season with another spectacular performance during the championship level meets in February. Once again, he won the Bay State Championship and was named a three time Bay State All-Star diver. He placed second at the South Sectional Championship, and ended the season strong, finishing second overall at Division 1 States, with a final score of 460.35.

According to guidance counselor Patrick Manning, the boys’ swim and dive coach, Byers was willing to put in the hard work necessary to perform at such an elite level, training tirelessly for each competition. “I think the team saw his performance and that hard work can lead to success,” he said. “You have to actually pull him off the diving board. He would stay there for hours every day if you gave him the choice.”

Manning added that, as a teammate, Byers did everything he could for the success of his team, a rare quality in such an individual-based sport. “He’ll jump into any event if we need someone. Whatever it is, he’ll give it a shot just cause he knows the team needs help.”

Byers led the team by example, showing up on time every day and working on every aspect of his dives, according to Manning. He said, his “success at bigger meets, states and sectionals, set an example for the other kids to follow.”

Outside of the pool, Byers also helped to organize events and opportunities for the team. “JR worked tremendously hard outside of the pool this year to get an entire apparel shop running for the team, coaches and parents,” said junior Elliot Alberts, a team captain next season with juniors Austin Chen, and Ben Ronell.

His hard work and leadership had a positive effect on the team as they finished the season 5-5, the team’s best record in many years according to Byers. “He has worked tremendously hard the past couple years,” said Alberts, “even when he wasn’t officially a captain, to lead the team, encourage us to push through tough workouts, and help each one of us improve as athletes.”

He added “JR has been a great role model for myself and other future leaders of this team,” says Alberts. “I want to continue what JR and the other captains started and keep Varsity Swim and Dive on the upward trajectory we have been on for the past couple years.”

In addition to diving, Byers put much effort into his academics, but balancing school with his sport has been a challenge. Using his time wisely was key to his success in and out of the pool. “I took on a really challenging course load at North so I had to make use of every free hour I had,” said Byers.

Manning, who is also Byer’s guidance counselor, said that outside of the pool, “he’s got a really good head on his shoulders” and he is excited to see what that means for him in college and further in the future.

Byers will be attending Brown University next year, and will continue diving for the 5th ranked team in the Ivy League conference. Brown’s mens’ swim and dive recently placed fourth at the 2020 Ivy League Championships.

Byers is looking forward to his future at Brown. With their open curriculum, he is planning on studying computer science, along with biology and engineering.  “I am looking forward to meeting my new Brown team while I am still sad about leaving the North team behind,” says Byers. “For diving, there is always room to grow and I am excited about learning some new dives off of the 3 meter board.”