Bulletin Exclusive: Golden Effort for Edwards in Peru Steeplechase Victory
Jul 24, 2017 04:02PM ● Published by Pamela Johnson
Sarah Edwards, first over the hurdle, first to cross the finish line at the Pan Am Jr. Track Championships in Trujillo, Peru, on July 23
Sarah Edwards won her first race in a foreign country, capturing the gold medal in the 3000-meter steeplechase at the Pan American Junior Track Championships in Trujillo, Peru, on July 23.
The 19-year-old Bellingham native, who’s now a sophomore at Virginia Tech, led from start to finish and won in a time of 10:10.68, about 10 meters ahead of second-place finisher Alondra Negron Texidor of Puerto Rico. Negron Texidor’s time was 10:13.73.
Edwards’ victory in the Pan Am event was her second first-place finish in a month. In June, she won the steeplechase at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships at Sacramento. As a result of finishing in the top two at Sacramento, the former Bellingham High all-American qualified for the Pan American meet.
“This is really special,’’ Edwards said about her triumph in Peru. “I’m overjoyed. It was great to represent the United States, wearing red, white and blue. It’s a little different being so far from home. After the race, photos were taken and it was an honor to be holding and waving a U.S. flag.’’
The conditions for the race were ideal. Skies were overcast and the temperature reached 70 degrees with a moderate wind. Edwards ran a steady pace and experienced no problems with any of the water barriers. “During the race, I had runners around me but I kept the lead,’’ she said. “At one point, Alondra and I were even going over a barrier but she fell.’’
Edwards arrived five days before her event and followed a routine that Ben Thomas, her coach at Virginia Tech, had drawn up. “I had two hard workouts daily in the beginning, then some easy runs followed by some strides,’’ Edwards said. “On the day of the event (Sunday), I was excited, but I got a bit flustered when I was unable to finish my pre-race warm-ups and had to wait about 10 minutes in a lineup before the start.’’
Edwards said that competing against foreign athletes was no different from facing runners in the U.S. “There’s no difference,’’ she said. “You don’t think about who you’re competing against. It doesn’t matter.’’
Two runners who are familiar to Edwards ran in Peru. Her roommate at Virginia Tech (Laurie Barton) finished fifth in the 800-meter run; and Alexandra Harris, who finished second to Edwards in Sacramento, captured a bronze medal in the steeplechase.
Edwards, who set 16 school records at Bellingham High, ended her freshman year at Virginia Tech by qualifying for the steeplechase event at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, OR, where she finished 10th.
Edwards had never run the event, which involves leaping over 28 hurdles and seven water hazards, but she worked diligently and discovered early on that she was more than capable of dealing with the challenge.
Her first attempt 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 good enough for first place. That effort earned her first-team all-ACC honors.
At the NCAA East Regional in late May at the University of Kentucky, Edwards exceeded expectations. She ran the 3,000-meters 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.
Able to get in some sightseeing while in Peru, Edwards now will take some time off. Her only priority is to get ready for the cross-country season at Virginia Tech. “I’m hoping to be more competitive for both cross-country and indoor track,’’ she emphasized. “I’m not sure what events I’ll be doing indoors. It could be the 800, mile or 3,000-meter run.’’
Winning a gold medal at the Pan Am Junior Championships is not only a significant achievement for Edwards, but it’s also a competition that will produce lasting memories. “Competing in Peru was eye-opening,’’ she said. “I met athletes from various countries and it was fun to meet new friends. The Pan American meet was such a rewarding experience.’’
Back in Bellingham, Edwards’ mother, Peggy, was elated with her daughter’s victory. “Our family is extremely proud of Sarah,’’ Mrs. Edwards said. “The steeplechase is an event Sarah never ran in high school. Her race in Peru was only her seventh steeplechase since she started running the event three months ago in April.’’