News From Terre Haute, Indiana

College

March 23, 2011

Rose-Hulman junior a quick study for track success

TERRE HAUTE — “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

— Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell didn’t have Rose-Hulman junior Jeremiah Edwards in mind when he uttered his now famous quotation, but it fits him to a T.

Edwards was a standout wrestler as a freshman at Rose, finishing just one win away from a spot in the NCAA Division III National Wrestling Championships. A promising start to a career, you might think, but the mat was pulled out from under him when the program was dropped at the end of the school year.

“Sophomore year I didn’t really do anything [athletically] … went to a lot of sports games to cheer on my friends,” Edwards recalled. “But I missed competing.”

Seeking an outlet for his competitive fire, Edwards chose to follow in the footsteps, literally, of his parents. Both were standout track athletes at a Division III school in Ohio.

“My parents always encouraged me to run track and try it,” Edwards said. “I’m the only one in my family that hasn’t run track, so I wanted to continue the tradition I guess.”

To say Edwards is excelling in track would be a whopper of an understatement.

The Indianapolis native has quickly risen from a track beginner to setting two school records, in the 60- and 55-meter dashs. He also earned that elusive spot in a NCAA Division III Championship event — this time in indoor track. All in the span of just about three months.

Rose-Hulman men’s and women’s track and field coach Larry Cole has coached for about 30 years in collegiate track settings and has seen a lot. But even he admits to being amazed by Edwards’ meteoric rise.

“We’ve got about 75 to 80 young people out for track every year,” Cole said. “Some of them want to be an All-American quality of athlete, then some of them have never run track before. Well, not very often do we combine those entities.”

It was not an instant success story, especially during the team’s preseason workouts between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to both coach and runner.

“I knew how to run, but like all the technique and stuff, you could tell I didn’t know what I was doing,” Edwards admitted. “But [Cole] was patient with me, took the time to show me how to do things. I got better as time went on.”

“To be very honest, he didn’t show us a lot,” Cole noted. “He’d never been out of a set of starting blocks before. We even had him working out on the long jump a little bit … but didn’t see a whole lot there either. We also thought he had some potential. Being a good wrestler, he’s competitive. He doesn’t like to lose.

“He’s like a sponge … this was all new to him. It was just a matter of getting him some technique coming out of the blocks, getting more repetitions. So as the season wore along, this guy was progressively getting pretty good.”

Edwards began his success story in the first meet of the season, the Double Dual at Rose-Hulman in January. In his first career track meet, he sets the school record in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.09 seconds.

A week later, he turns in the second-best school record time in his first 55-meter dash of 6.62 seconds.

Two weeks later, he set the school record at 6.51 seconds. The previous record (6.56 seconds) was set in 1999 by Arvont Hill, a member of the Rose-Hulman Athletic Hall of Fame.

Soon after, Edwards dropped his time to 6.46 seconds at the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference indoor meet. That was good enough to make him a provisional qualifier for the DIII National meet, ranking him 18th nationally.

“So I stepped it up some more,” Edwards recalled.

In the final meet of the season, at a last chance meet in Stevens Point, Wis., Edwards was even better with a winning time of 6.39 seconds. That was the third time he’d set or improved upon the 55-meter dash school record. It also moved him to fifth place nationally and a spot in the DIII National meet.

Alas, it would be nice to say Edwards enjoyed great success at the DIII Nationals, but he was destined for an 11th-place finish.

“He goes to the Nationals and it’s an experience,” Cole stated. “In the semifinals he didn’t get out real well. In the 55-meter dash indoors, the start is everything because the race is over in six seconds. That’s just experience, getting reps out of the blocks more.”

Edwards hopes to continue opening doors in his first outdoor season, running the 100-meter dash for the first time in Rose-Hulman’s Early Bird Meet on Saturday.

“My dad got an 11.4 [seconds] this summer and I’ve always thought I’m slower than my dad. This year he’s like 50 [years old] or something like that.  If I can do better than that, I might be as fast or faster than my dad. That’s my first goal. So I can run away … if something goes down,” Edwards laughed.

Well, he’d better watch himself around Dad for a little while longer — he won the 100-meter dash on Saturday, but in a time of 11.55 seconds.

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