MORGANTOWN – It was hard work and dedication that led University High’s Josh Edwards to becoming one of the top distance runners in the state. It was his sacrifice that helped lead the Hawks to a Class AAA state track title in 2022.
For a second consecutive year, Edwards – now a freshman on the cross-country and track teams at Oregon – swept the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the state track in Charleston. He also added the 800-meter title for the first time in his career. He ran that event in a time of 1:56.12, just two seconds off the state-meet record.
Those were somewhat expected, as Edwards went through 2022 with the top times in each event. His sacrifice, UHS track coach Ed Frohnapfel said, came in Edwards switching from the 4×800 relay team and moving down to the 4×400 relay team.
“We had five guys for four spots on the 4×800, and we thought we could still win the 4×800 without Josh,” Frohnapfel said. “We were searching for points for the state championship, so I asked him if he was willing to do the 4×400, because he could take off a few seconds for us. He had no problem with it. He said, ‘Sure thing,’ and just went out and did it.”
UHS ended up taking third in the relay, giving the Hawks just enough to edge out Jefferson for the school’s first state title, 93-88.
Edwards finished tied with Huntington’s Noah Waynick for high-point scorer at 31.5 points, and has been named the 2022 McCoy Award winner, as the state’s top male athlete in track. He will be honored at the 76th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 7, at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
“I’ve honestly kind of exceeded my own expectations, but to some extent, you have to envision yourself being there or you’ll never get there,” he said.
In the voting by the state’s sportswriters, Edwards beat out both Gus Morrison of Ritchie County and Aidan Scott of Wheeling Central, who both tied for second.
Morrison was the high-point scorer at the state meet in Class A, scoring 32 points with state titles in the 400 meters, 300 hurdles and setting a state record in the long jump at 22 feet, 6.5 inches. He was also part of Ritchie County’s 4×200 relay team that took second place.
Scott swept the individual 800, 1,600 and 3,200 titles in Class A, finishing with 30 points for the meet.
As for Edwards, the McCoy Award is another in a long line of honors during his prep career. He is a three-time winner of the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in cross-country and a two-time winner of the same honor in track.
As a high-school junior, Edwards set the state-meet record in the 3,200 meters with a time of 8:52.82.
“He was the most physically talented runner I’ve coached, but what made him special, is he was also the hardest working,” Frohnapfel said. “Some guys, when you’ve had success, will start to take a little time off between seasons. That was never Josh. He never took time off, and a lot of what he did was going out on his own and pushing himself. He was very focused on being a runner.”
Edwards didn’t take up track until middle school, and had spent his earlier years playing soccer.
“I look back now and I don’t know why I didn’t sign up as a sprinter, because it’s so much easier,” Edwards joked. “My first race was a 3,200-meter and I did surprisingly well.”
He eventually gave up soccer and focused solely on distance running. By the time he was a freshman, Edwards qualified for the New Balance nationals in New York and was the only freshman that qualified for the championship race in the 3,200.
“I was the only underclassmen there. That was the most nervous I had ever been. I was just a little 5-foot-4 freshman and everyone else was so much bigger than me,” Edwards said. “After that, I sort of realized I had some sort of talent and I could go pretty big in this sport.”
Over his four years at University High, Edwards won three individual cross-country state championships, two state 3,200 and 1,600 meters titles and one 800 meters state title. In 2020, there was no state meet due to COVID-19.
“I’ve been coaching since 2006, and as far as having the total package, Josh is the only one I’ve ever had like that,” Frohnapfel said. “It was awesome to have an opportunity to coach someone of his ability and mindset.”