The get-together to celebrate Skyview senior Erika Edwards signing a national letter intent ended up being more of a celebration of Edwards' humility and dedication than it was of her accomplishments.
Wednesday in the Skyview High School library, Edwards, a distance runner, signed on to run track, indoor track and cross country at Division I Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Edwards, who has a 3.8 GPA at Skyview, was awarded a full ride, with the breakdown being 60 percent for athletics and 40 percent for academics.
John Andrews, who has been the athletic director at Skyview since it opened in 1990, said he could not recall a female athlete at Skyview ever getting a similar Division I athletic scholarship.
But Edwards, in typical fashion, was anything but boastful about the accomplishment.
"On Monday, she asked me if she could get out of track practice early so she could sign her letter of intent," said Skyview track coach Rob Sparks. "I told her, 'Of course you can. It's a big deal. We all want to be there.'"
Sparks went on to tell a story of Edwards finishing first in a race as a freshman and feeling bad because she had beaten all the other girls.
"She's not out there to show up other competitors, she's out there to be the best she can be," Sparks said. "She even humbles me as a coach. She helps me keep things in perspective.
"The way she competes isn't the way a lot of people in America compete today. It's more the way people competed when I was back in school."
Sparks said another example of Edwards' graciousness as a competitor was when she immediately congratulated East's Kikkan Randall after Randall edged her in the 3,200-meter run at the state track meet last year.
Of course, Andrews was quick to point out Edwards' graciousness as a competitor also came with another key attribute -- dedication.
After the state cross country meet this fall, Andrews said he wasn't surprised to see Edwards out on the track a week later, running 400-meter intervals to prepare for a Foot Locker meet in California.
Edwards, the daughter of Rex and Bev Edwards, said she received interest from several other schools, including Baylor University and Columbia University in New York City.
She decided on Northern Arizona because it was "the perfect fit."
Flagstaff is at about 7,000 feet above sea level, meaning, as a distance runner, Edwards can train at elevation. With that elevation, as an Alaskan, it also means in the winter Edwards should still see some snow.
However, with a trip to the north she can visit the Grand Canyon, while to the south she can warm up in Phoenix.
"I went to a camp at Northern Arizona in July," Edwards said. "I knew I wanted to go there, but they hadn't offered me a scholarship.
"I'm glad it worked out this way."
Edwards will be coached by Ron Mann, who is now in his 21st season at NAU. Mann has coached 78 individual All-Americans and had at least one of his athletes compete in every Summer Olympics since the 1984 games in Los Angeles.
One of the All-Americans Mann produced is Kristi Waythomas, who as Kristi Klinnert became the only big-schools runner in Alaska's history to win four state cross country crowns. Edwards said Waythomas was one person who got her enthused about NAU.
Mann also has had his athletes succeed in the classroom. During the 2000 spring semester, the women's cross country program posted a 3.48 GPA.
"That's one thing I want you all to realize," Sparks told the track team at Edwards' signing. "Academics played a big part in this.
"Coaches aren't going to bother with an athlete who's going to come down and flunk out of school."
Edwards will major in psychology at NAU, with an eye toward going into the field of medicine.
She said she owed most of her success to her parents, but also thanked coaches such as Sparks, Heidi Jacobsen and Kent Peterson; teammates such as Amy Lambe, Melina Hutchison and Adam Tressler; and running partner Gerri Litzenberger, an accomplished distance runner from Soldotna.
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