Edwards 10th in Steeplechase Event at NCAA Meet
Former BHS Star Now at Virginia TechSarah Edwards, who set 16 school records at Bellingham and became a high school All-American, ended her freshman year at Virginia Tech on a positive note by qualifying for the steeplechase event at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, where she finished 10th. Edwards had never run the 3,000-meter event, which involves leaping over 28 hurdles and seven water hazards, but she worked diligently on the race’s nuances and technique and discovered early on that she was more than capable of dealing with the challenge.
“At first, I didn’t think I could do well,” Edwards said. “I had never competed in hurdles before, but I worked on drills and learned how to clear them. My distance coach, Ben Thomas, has been at the college for a while, and he felt I had potential in the steeplechase. He instills confidence.”
What Thomas liked was Edwards’ athleticism, her form and her competitive style. She didn’t disappoint.
Her first attempt at the steeplechase was at the University of Virginia at the Virginia Grand Prix in April. She finished second in a time of 10:38.57. Next up was the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships at Georgia Tech in mid-May. Edwards ran the Atlanta course in 10:05.58, a time that not only was exceptional, but also good enough for first place. That effort earned her first-team all-ACC honors.
Edwards’ best, however, was yet to come. At the NCAA East Regional in late May at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Edwards exceeded expectations. She ran the 3,000-meter in a time of 9:52.89, giving her a personal best, a Virginia Tech record and a ticket to the NCAA Championships. Her time was the second fastest for an American under age 20 and the second fastest time in the country this year.
“The race at the regionals was my best and my top thrill so far,” Edwards noted. “Everything came together. The pace was even, the weather was ideal and the run went smoothly. The time enabled me to qualify at the national level. That was refreshing because I had to claw my way back after being slowed by illness and physical struggles in cross-country. My indoor season was a matter of getting my training straightened out and taking steps in the right direction.”
Edwards had suffered from anemia, stomach issues and some nagging foot problems in the fall, but her outdoor season produced impressive results. At the NCAAs in Oregon, she qualified for the final 12 by posting a time of 9:56.00 in her heat. Allie Ostrander of Boise State won the event in a time of 9:41.31.
Edwards’ time of 10:12.45 in the final on June 10 was not the finish she wanted. “I was worried because I had never run two steeplechase events in a span of three days,” Edwards said. “I was tired, my quads were tight and my legs felt heavy. Nevertheless, it was a great atmosphere and a great experience.”
If there was any disappointment, it was in not finishing 1–8. If she had managed a 1–8 finish, she would have been ranked as a first-team all-American. Finishing 10th gave her second-team all-American status, and now the Bellingham native is the 10th best female steeplechase competitor in the country.
Edwards’ summer will include at least one major event, and it could be two if she finishes first or second at the USA Junior Championships in Sacramento. A 1-2 finish in the steeplechase would qualify her for the Pan American Junior Championships in Peru on July 21.
Majoring in interior design, Edwards, who had 13 scholarship offers for track, made the academic transition to college look easy. She finished both semesters on the Dean’s List. “I have no regrets about my choice,” she said. “Blacksburg is a beautiful area and there’s a lot of spirit in the town.
Edwards credits Peter Lacasse, Bellingham’s track coach (shown left with Edwards), for all of her high school success and getting her prepared for the collegiate level. She lauds him for “stressing hard work and discipline.”
Sarah Edwards faced some adversity in her freshman year, but now she’s back in high gear and eager to improve and excel at the collegiate level.