No one is more confident of Lilia Edwards’ abilities than Edwards herself, but don’t expect the reserved Sycamore junior to be the first to say it.
“She’s quietly confident,” Spartans girls track coach Joe McCormick said. “She’s confident but coachable, which makes her really special. To combine all three – talented, confident and coachable – that’s the key. That’s the magic number right there.”
It led to a Class 2A sectional title in the triple jump and second-place finishes in the long jump and 100-meter hurdles. It led to a fourth-place finish in the state meet in the long jump and appearances in the other two events. And it has led to her being named the 2014 Daily Chronicle Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Despite all the accomplishments, Edwards left state with mixed emotions about her performance. She didn’t qualify for the finals in her best event – triple jump – but she did better than expected in another.
“I really wanted to place in triple jump, that was my main goal,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t expecting to make it to the finals in long jump, but I was so happy about that. It was such a surprise.”
It was an impressive finish to the season after the setbacks she has faced. In last year’s conference meet, Edwards fractured her heel but still qualified for state in the triple jump.
Then, in this season’s indoor state meet, the Illinois Top Times in Bloomington, she was run over on the runway and fractured her elbow. The doctor ordered her to avoid jumping events for a month, so she was reduced to running sprints and relays instead of her typical events.
But McCormick said it ultimately was a positive for Edwards, who has struggled with shin splints for several years.
“That turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Her four events (triple jump, long jump, 100 and 300 hurdles) are the most intense on the shins and the hips and the knees. … When she went back into the jump, her legs were pretty fresh and springy.”
After how she came back after the injury, McCormick said he probably will stick with that same plan next year even if Edwards isn’t injured. With four extremely taxing events to compete in, it might be a good idea.
Her schedule also is stressful because of how close the events are to each other. At state, the long jump was scheduled right by the 100 hurdles, and the triple jump right by the 300 hurdles, leaving her without much preparation time.
“When practicing, you can’t fit it all in, so something gets pushed off to the side,” Edwards said. “And during meets, it’s really hard. You just have to take things by the moment and not worry about later events.”
It might get even tougher next year, when Edwards will set her sights even higher. After setting Sycamore records in the long jump and triple jump, she wants to do the same in both hurdle events. Beyond that, she wants to make it to state in all four and medal in more than one.
These are lofty goals, ones that probably wouldn’t be possible without the steps she took this season. McCormick said it was an “eye-opening” year for Edwards, whose work ethic and drive was kicked up a notch.
After the adversity, the comeback, the disappointment and the surprises, Edwards will look back fondly on 2014.
“I’m sad about the injury that I had midseason,” she said, “but I’m really happy about the way things turned out.”