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Jake Edwards overcomes injuries to lead Ohio State cross country

Courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com

Ohio State’s men’s cross country runner Jake Edwards has struggled to perform for periods throughout his career as a Buckeye, but his struggles stem from issues far beyond any race course.

A redshirt senior, Edwards has dealt with a multitude of injuries throughout his time as a Buckeye.

“I feel like I’ve barely run,” Edwards said. “I’ve only ran about five or six cross-country races outside of this year for Ohio State.”

Mononucleosis and two stress fractures, among other injuries, prevented Edwards from consistently contributing to OSU’s cross country team until his junior season.

The 2010 season was the first time Edwards ran at the Big Ten championships, and he placed 22nd.

Not being able to compete on a regular basis was hard for Edwards, but also for Robert Gary, OSU’s head coach.

“It’s been tough to keep him healthy,” Gary said. “He really hasn’t run a lot of cross-country races.”

Edwards came to OSU after running cross country and track at Delaware Hayes High School, where he was a state champion in the indoor 1,600-meter and a top-ten finisher at the 2006 Ohio Cross Country Championship.

Attending OSU was an easy choice.

“I grew up rooting for Ohio State,” Edwards said. “OSU was kind of a dream school. Coach Gary is a bit of a legacy, he’s a two-time Olympian. You can’t do much better than having an Olympian as coach.”

While his time running cross country for OSU has not been easy, Edwards started the 2011 season healthy as the team’s No. 1 runner.

At the season opener, the 6.4K Mountaineer Open in North Carolina, Edwards led the Buckeyes to a first-place team finish. He took home his first individual title as well, finishing in 19:28.1.

“It was fun. Coach wanted us to get out hard and that’s what we did,” Edwards said. “After two miles I hit the front and it was really smooth.”

His coach was happy to see it.

“I thought he looked really good there and it was really exciting,” Gary said.

Following the meet, Edwards was named Big Ten Runner of the Week.

“It’s a nice honor. It’s just good that we get a little recognition within the Big Ten,” Edwards said.

At the team’s next meet, the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind., Edwards injured his hamstring, and dropped out of the race around the four-mile mark of a nearly five-mile race. After being fully healthy for many months, the experience was something Edwards said he would like to forget.

“It’s almost like a nightmare,” Edwards said. “As individual of a sport running is, it’s still pretty team-oriented, and you just feel disappointed letting down your teammates when you can’t finish.”

Edwards said he expects to be ready to go for the team’s next meet, the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Oct. 14.

The team needs him to be healthy if they want to achieve their goals, which Edwards said are to finish in the top three at the Big Ten championships and qualifying for the NCAA championships.

Edwards’ teammate, and roommate for four years, redshirt senior Taylor Williams, said OSU needs him to run well if they are going to be successful at the end of the season.

“As a team we always try to make the national meet,” Williams said. “That really requires having five guys running well at those races. Jake is definitely one of those five guys, he’s one of the most talented runners on the team.”

Edwards said he hopes that will happen.

“I think it’s important for us as a team to have one or two guys in the top 10 at the Big Ten meet, so that’s where I’d like to be,” he said.

Gary agreed.

“When Jake is really on, he’s probably a little better than everyone else,” he said.

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