By Greg Klein
---- — Caleb Edmonds isn’t just beating rival runners. He said he is beating his own expectations.
“This season has gone really well, better than I hoped for or imagined,” Edmonds, a 2010 Cooperstown Central School graduate and redshirt sophomore at Liberty University, said. “The 5k has gone a whole lot better than I expected.”
Two weeks after breaking the 14-minute barrier at the Stanford Invitational, Edmonds won a Big South Conference title and finished second in another event. He won the 5k on April 20 with a time of 14:26.14, more than two seconds ahead of teammate Josh MacDonald. On April 18, he finished second in the 10k at 31:28.26, just more than six seconds behind teammate David Ricksecker.
“It is nice to have a conference title,” he said. “It is a fun thing to be able to say you have done it and to be listed as a champion.
“Really though, we were just hoping to do well as a team,” he continued. “We went 1-2-3-4 in the 10k and 1-2-3-5 in the 5k, so we did what we set out to do. We wanted one of us to win, and it wasn’t as important which one of us it was. It is a great group of guys. They are really fun to train with, and it helps to have them to push me to get better.”
As much as he enjoys the idea of being a conference champion, Edmonds said that breaking the 14-minute mark was even better. Edmonds finished third in the 5k at the Stanford Invitational on March 30, crossing in a personal-best 13:57.09. He became the third Liberty runner and fourth Big South runner to ever break 14 minutes in the event. In doing so, he was named the Big South Conference’s Male Track Athlete of the Week.
“For me personally, I think it is a bigger deal to get under 14 minutes. It is a big barrier in the 5k,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I would ever get there.”
Edmonds said that a track official told him that another runner was going to set a fast pace for the event.
“He said we had a guy who was going to ‘rabbit it’ in the race, so I knew we were going to go fast,” he said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for me if I could keep up with the pace. About halfway through the race, I saw my splits and I knew it would be close either way.”
Edmonds’ event coach, Liberty assistant coach Josh McDougal, seconded the assessment that breaking 14 minutes was a feat.
“It is a truly elite mark, one that most people never reach,” McDougal said. “We have had a lot of talented runners, even All-Americans, come through here that haven’t achieved it. Now whenever he goes to an event and they ask him his personal record, they are going to look at him differently when they hear it starts with a 13.”
Edmonds said he is looking forward to the IC4A Outdoor Track Championships in Princeton, N.J. on May 10 to 12 and the NCAA Division I regionals in Greensboro, N.C. two weeks later.
“I think my times have qualified me to run in the regionals,” he said. “That is going to be a big experience for me because I have never been there before.”
Edmonds has two older brothers, Josh and Peter, who both ran track at Liberty. Both had success, but he has done even better, a feat he credits to their example.
“It is hard to go first and easier to go last, I guess,” he said. “I always had a goal to shoot for, and it is something great to actually go above it.”
Added McDougal, “Honestly Caleb has been a dream to coach, but that’s been the way it has been with all of the Edmonds who have come through our program.”
At Cooperstown, Edmonds earned Daily Star Athlete of the Year honors in track in 2010, when he finished fourth overall in the state in the 3,200. That year he set CCS records in the 1600 and 3200 at 4:19.52 and 9:06.67 respectively. He also set the 3200-relay record in 2010 with Jeremiah Ford, Jacob Miller and Will Reis at 7:59.62.
In cross country, Edmonds set CCS records in 2009 on both the Irish Tower Course, 3.05 miles in 17:26, and the Staley Elementary School Course (RFA) in the 5k in 16:00.
That means Edmonds has dropped two minutes from his 5k time in four years, and his coach said he thinks he can get all the way down to 13:30 if he stays for his senior year.
“It is a testament to his work ethic,” McDougal said. “He came in here with a lot of natural ability, but he has really blossomed this year. He still has untapped potential. I think we will continue to see his times dropping.”
“He is very disciplined,” McDougal continued. “I would not be surprised if he went to bed every night at 9 p.m. and got up every morning at 5 a.m. He just brings that much discipline to what he does. He is not your typical college guy in that sense.”
Edmonds has two more years of eligibility left, but he said he will graduate next spring with a degree in biology/pre-med, and may pass on a senior season in favor of medical school.
“I will still have so many years of school left with med school, that I probably will lose a year of eligibility, unfortunately,” he said. “I don’t know yet because I still have to take the MCAT.”
But whether he stays for a senior season or not, Edmonds said he is looking forward to his junior season.
“For this season, I don’t know if I can keep improving. I may be at the top of my abilities,” he said. “I do still feel there is room for me to improve next year. I think if I keep training and working I can do even better next season.”