By Mackensey O'hara CONTRIBUTING WRITER
---- — Less than a week before the Big South Championships, Caleb Edmonds’ position coach at Liberty University, Josh McDougal, mentioned that Edmonds might try competing in the 1500M this year because his speed is so good.
Now the move looks like a good call.
Edmonds, a 2010 Cooperstown Central School graduate and junior at Liberty, ran and won the 1500 at the Big South Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina on Saturday in a time of 3:55:72. Campbell’s Chris Schulist finished second with a time of 3:56:53.
“Going into the 1500, I did not think I was going to win,” said Edmonds. “The hope was to make it to finals and beat as many guys as I could. After feeling really good in prelims, I thought that maybe I had a better shot at winning.”
Edmonds said that although the weather conditions were rainy, cold, and windy, it suited him and may have helped in winning the title.
“The weather was pretty bad for finals, but I have always liked to race in bad weather,” said Edmonds. “I think it may have given me the advantage I needed to win.
“Many of the other runners were not comfortable in the cold, wet, and windy condition,” continued Edmonds. “To me, bad weather just makes the race more exciting. The important thing was not to take the lead and have to break the wind. The goal was to watch the race unfold and kick at the end.”
With the 5K being Edmonds main event, the 1500 title was a welcome surprise to both runner and coach.
“I was super excited to win the 1500, especially because it is not an event I run very often. It gives me a little more confidence for the end of a 5K, knowing that I have some speed,” continued Edmonds.
Added McDougal, “It was huge. There were probably three or four guys picked to win over him. He really showed up big.”
Just hours after winning the 1500 title, Edmonds then competed in the 5K finals, taking second behind High Point’s Jacob Smith with a time of 14:28:67.
In what was a showdown of Big South 5K champions, it was a close finish, with the margin between first and second being 0.55 seconds.
“It was a very close race,” said Edmonds, the defending champion in the 5K. “I knew that no matter if the race started out fast or slow, it would most likely come down to a kick between myself and (Smith). That is exactly what happened, and he had the better kick.
“The race started out pretty slow, but we covered the last 800 in 2:02,” Edmonds continued. “It was a fun race, so I am still happy with the results.”
Added McDougal, “It was nice, evenly-tempo race and then it slowly sped up. Caleb ran a really good race. It was a great race overall and he just barely came in second.”
Smith, who redshirted last season, won the 5K title in 2012. The two met earlier this season at the Raleigh Relays and Edmonds came out on top, beating him by 1.3 seconds.
“Racing him is always interesting,” said Edmonds. “He’s a talented runner and he always puts up a good race.”
Although Edmonds has one more year of eligibility in the outdoor season, he will be graduating this spring, and is pretty sure that this will be his last season running. He said he will spend next year preparing to apply to medical schools.
Edmonds said he has more he would like to accomplish in his last season of track.
The IC4A Outdoor Track Championships start May 16 in Princeton, N.J. and the NCAA Division 1 Regionals follow two weeks later in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I believe I have a regional qualifier, but I won’t know for sure for a little while,” said Edmonds.
Edmonds said he could not have hoped for a better last Big South Championship.
“Overall, it was a great last Big South,” said Edmonds. “I am very happy with the way things turned out, especially being able to walk away with an individual and team title.
“Looking back, I think it turned out better than anyone would have predicted,” continued Edmonds.
Edmonds’ career highlights at Liberty University include breaking the 14-minute barrier in the 5K last season, holding the outdoor school record in the 3K, claiming the 2013 Indoor 3K Big South title and being named the 2013 Big South Scholar-Athlete of the year.
“His presence will definitely be missed,” said McDougal. “I’ve really enjoyed his consistency, never having to worry about him being ready before a race, going to sleep early, or eating a good meal.
“He is very focused,” continued McDougal. “You always know what you’re going to get when he toes the line.”
Added Edmonds on his career, “It’s been incredible. I never thought I would run as fast as I have. It has been pleasant surprises all around.
“I’ve had great guys to train with and no matter how it ends up this year, I’m happy with how things went,” Edmonds continued.