The 82-degree heat blanketing the track in Tallahassee provided the perfect backdrop as hundreds of fans packed the stands at the Florida State Relays last weekend.
When senior Dana Edwards lined up against runners from the University of Connecticut, Florida State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, all she could think about was staying in the pack.
Adrenaline racing through her body, the athlete’s anxious tension released at the snap of the starting gun. Edwards darted from the starting line, and never looked back.
As the lead leg she set the pace for Georgia Southern University’s nationally ranked performance in the 4X400m relay, and third-best in school history. When asked if she enjoys the pressures that come with going first, Edwards said, “I like it now.”
Before blazing trails on the asphalt, Edwards tore it up on the hardwood. As a small forward on Clark Central High School’s basketball team, the coach encouraged her to stay conditioned in the offseason by running track. A natural athlete, earning six varsity letters in basketball, swimming and track, Edwards realized her talents translated outdoors.
Edwards performed above her own expectations, earning a ticket on the Eagles’ track & field team. Still grasping the sport, the transition from high school to college provided a new learning curve. Though she’s made strides as a hurdler and sprinter, Edwards believes her biggest improvement is immeasurable.
“My confidence has been my biggest improvement,” Edwards said. “My freshman year I felt like I was just here. I didn’t really know how to run. Sophomore year was okay, but I knew I could get better.”
When times got tough, Edwards turned to her family for motivation. Kim Edwards, her mother, provided spiritual guidance, reminding her daughter that her talents were given for a reason and to use them to the best of her ability. Contrast that to the you-can-always-do-better advice from Cornelius Edwards, her father, who played football at Morris Brown College.
It also helps to have a twin sister on the team. According to Edwards, having senior Deanna Edwards with her picks her up in ways only a sibling can.
During her junior year, Edwards broke out, when Head Coach Marlo Mincey passed the baton and told her she would run as the lead in the 4x400m. Initially reluctant and nervous, Edwards took on the responsibility. MIncey’s decision provided right, as Edwards led the team to a memorable second place finish in the Southern Conference championship.
After moving up to fourth all-time on the university record with her performance in the 400m hurdles (1:01:17), Edwards’ anticipation and confidence continue to rise as she looks ahead to Saturday’s meet.
“I’m ready,” said Edwards. “I want to skip this whole week and go straight to the weekend.”