2012 GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Edwards strikes right chord by winning state crown

by C. Jemal Horton

Charlotte Catholic senior Onya Edwards won two individual medals at last month’s Class 3A state meet. C. Jemal Horton/SCW photo

During the drive home from Greensboro, Onya Edwards couldn’t stop singing, but it wasn’t as if she was belting out pop tunes from the car radio.

The Charlotte Catholic senior had come up with a hit of her own after winning the girls Class 3A state long jump title in dramatic fashion – a feat that came on the heels of perhaps the most trying of her three years as a track and field athlete.

So, as if it were beyond her control, Edwards simply kept singing, I’m a staaaaaate champ! I’m a staaaaaate champ!

“I was so happy – you don’t understand,” Edwards said. “I was singing, and my mom (Bartina) was like, ‘Onya, please be quiet!’ But it’s a remarkable feeling, because you’re the best in the state, at least in 3A.”

In addition, Edwards took fourth place in the triple jump, which helped her become Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2012 Southern Mecklenburg Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

And although Edwards entered the season as one of the best in the state, her achievements certainly didn’t come easily.

For starters, her longtime jumps coach at Charlotte Catholic, Mike Grady, stepped down. Grady had taught her everything she knew about the long jump and her other key event, the triple jump, and Edwards missed him dearly.

In the first two meets of the season, she struggled.

“That kind of put me down,” she said, “because I wanted to come out my first meet and (set a personal record) and show everybody, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ But in my third meet, I got 17 (feet, 4.5 inches), and my PR was 17-2.5 before.

“That’s when I said, ‘I’m back.’ When you accomplish one thing, and then you accomplish something higher than that, it’s like a cycle. I eventually got to the state meet, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m taking it home.’”

Not before things got tense, though.

Edwards did well in the first round of the long jump, which qualified her for one of the eight spots in the finals, where each competitor received three attempts. Edwards fouled on her first two jumps, leaving her with just one attempt to catch the athletes in front of her.

She nailed it by going 16-11 – an inch ahead of the person in first place at the time.

“When I got my 16-11, I just looked in the stands at my boyfriend, Xander Maddox, and he had his hands up,” Edwards said. “My mom was celebrating, too. It was amazing.

“The whole thing was nerve-wracking, but then again, I would’ve been happy just getting there, because this year was so hard. But trust me: Getting first place made it a much better feeling.”

This fall, Edwards, who has a 3.5 GPA, will attend Xavier University in Ohio on an academic scholarship. And although she’s hung up her track spikes for good, she’ll always have the memories of her final season, when she fought through the toughest sports adversity she ever faced.

And still became a staaaaaaaate champ.

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