SYCAMORE – Sycamore girls track and field coach Joe McCormick knew right away that Lilia Edwards had a chance to be a special hurdler when he saw her run last year as a freshman.
Her speed and her performance in the IESA track and field meet in middle school showed plenty, but when McCormick saw her run, he saw that her 6-foot frame and her long stride made her an ideal hurdler.
In the hurdling events, taking three steps between hurdles is ideal. For many athletes, this means lengthening their strides. But with Edwards’ long legs, she naturally could take three steps from hurdle to hurdle without breaking stride.
“She can three-step consistently for the full 100 meters, and that, I think, is rare for a sophomore,” McCormick said. “She’s tall, she has powerful legs, and she’s just a strong, strong girl.”
In her freshman season, Edwards was part of Sycamore’s 4x100 relay team that went to the state meet. She also found some success in the hurdles. But after struggling through injuries in 2012, she has shown early in the season that she might just carry on the legacy of all-state athletes at Sycamore, receiving the torch from Lake Kwaza, who graduated last year.
At the Prep Top Times meet, an invite-only meet with the state’s best athletes, she finished 11th in the 60-meter hurdles and eighth in the triple jump, an event in which she didn’t compete last season. In last Saturday’s meet, Edwards surpassed the state-qualifying standard in the triple jump with a leap of 34 feet, 10 inches. She also competed in the long jump, triple jump and 300 hurdles.
“The indoor season was pretty good, but in the outdoor season I really think I turned a corner,” Edwards said. “Last year, I definitely felt I was more of a hurdler. But this year, with triple jump, I’m not really sure. It’s kind of changed a little this year.”
McCormick said he doesn’t think Edwards has even tapped her potential in the 300 hurdles, which he thinks might eventually be her best event.
The race is a test of endurance for hurdlers, and McCormick isn’t sure if Edwards wants to commit herself to the event just yet.
“We really think she could own the 300 hurdles. She’s still reluctant to make that move,” McCormick said. “Because of her long stride and because the hurdles are even lower, I think she could really attack it and take control of it if she wanted.”
McCormick is being careful not to over-tax Edwards in jumping events that put stress on her legs, so four-event meets like Saturday won’t happen often. But McCormick thinks that, come sectionals, she’ll have a legitimate shot to qualify for the state meet in the long jump, triple jump and 100 hurdles.
After qualifying as part of a team last year, McCormick is thankful to have Edwards healthy enough to compete to her full potential.
“Last year she was kind of banged up in the indoor (season), so we never really got a chance to see her,” McCormick said. “I’m grateful in the sense that she’s still looking strong and she’s healthy. She’s attacking the boards and attacking the hurdles.”