* Larry Josh Edwards won the 3K in a blazing final lap at the Penn Relays in April
Photo Credit: Don Rich/MileSplit
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By Cory Mull - MileSplit
The final days of Larry Josh Edwards' career as a high school athlete will begin on Thursday at the West Virginia State Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Which, at least in some ways, is fitting.
Because it was only back in April when Edwards, upon claiming a massive win in the 3K at the Penn Relays -- in the meet's return to the sport, with Edwards' performance standing as one of the biggest moments of his career -- replied to a post-race interview question with a qualifier of his own.
What is it like to compete here at Penn Relays, with everyone rooting and cheering you on here?
"Honestly, as weird as it sounds, it feels like the West Virginia state meet," he said. "You have people line up on both sides, it's just the crowd is electric, you get that great feeling."
Maybe he had his mind on those country roads.
WATCH THE REPLAY: Edwards wins the 3K at Penn Relays
But for the University of Oregon signee, that's how he's always been. Morgantown is his home.
"The sport is growing (in the state) a lot more than what people are anticipating," he said recently.
On top of that recent success, there's been Edwards. He's laid quite the stamp on the state's high school track and field scene.
As a sophomore, Edwards exploded, winning his first West Virginia state cross country title. He's racked up six state titles over his high school career, across both the XC and outdoor seasons. If not for the pandemic, which reamed future opportunities, he might have more.
But just last year, he also found success outside the state, finishing fourth in the 2-mile at Brooks PR.
What's more, recent years have also seen his name affiliated alongside the likes of Rheinhardt Harrison, Aidan Puffer, Judson Greer and Jack Scherer. They were known as the boys of Tinman Jr. Elite -- that is, until a dispute over naming rights of that professional group and a coaching change shed that label.
To this day, though, Edwards, Harrison and Puffer are still coached by Tom Schwartz, a renowned tactician who's cultivated a strong resume training high school distance runners across the U.S.
Edwards says he's the type to move forward.
"People can be hung up on their past sometimes," he said. "You can't be."
Edwards currently leads the state with No. 1 times in the 800m (1:53.46), the mile (4:14.62) and the 3,200m (8:45.61) -- his latter time is a new state record. He's currently U.S. No. 3 in the 3K with a time of 8:20.31.
This weekend, he will finish off his final meet as a University High School athlete by trying for the state quadruple. He's going for individual wins in the 800m, 1,600m and 3,200m, and then will contribute to the team's 4x400.
"Going into the state meet, trying to score as many points as I can and to see what happens," he said.
Actually, if the rules allow for it -- Edwards says he only has to avoid doing four events in one day -- he could even factor into 4x800.
Maybe he'll have the chance to win five.
"They might not need me, though" he added. "They can go 7:55. That should be more than enough to win."
The pie-in-the-sky goal for University, he says, is for the team to go after the Class 3A state title. A few weeks back, the boys looked at their state power ranking and realized they might have the depth to win. That's an honor, Edwards said, that would be the ribbon on top of his career.
"Oh shoot, we're first in the power rankings," Edwards remembers thinking. "We could win it if we tried."
And yet, the biggest storyline might be the fact that Edwards is hanging up his spikes after the race. In recent years, racing at the national level has been a badge of honor for those searching for even bigger performances.
But Edwards said he has looked at those post-state efforts from a different lens.
"Good races come up every once in awhile," he said. "When they come up, great. But I'm not going to stress out about missing New Balance or Brooks or anything. ...It's one of those things."
Specifically, 'those things' is what Edwards has his eyes on in the fall of 2022. Perhaps he's always been a long-term thinker, because Edwards knows in order to be prepared for what's ahead, you often have to make choices about how you'll train for those moments.
We have to keep in mind, Edwards has never really raced all that much. He ran at two meets this indoor season, winning the 2-mile at Nike Indoor Nationals. And he ran at the Penn Relays this April.
Even last year, he only ran two meets out of state: the NSAF Meet of Champions and Brooks PR. The latter was because it sat pretty well with his season.
"It wasn't too far after the state meet," he said.
He's prioritized training, of being ready in the moment. And that's something his future coach, Oregon's Ben Thomas, and he have talked about in recent weeks.
But here's the juice: "It's going to suit me better in the fall if I start working on cross country now rather than do another month and a half of track."
The Oregon signee -- whose roommate will be his close friend Rheinhardt Harrison in the fall -- already knows his mission: Make the top seven for the 2022 season with the Ducks.
"Obviously, that's a goal of mine," he said.
So the next few days, they will be the last of Edwards in a University jersey, as a high school athlete in West Virginia.
He's going to make the most of them, he said, if only because he'll cherish these moments running for his state.
These next few races, in fact, might be the most memorable ones he's ever had.