Edwards wins gold at USA Junior Outdoor Championships

Virginia Tech track and field standout Sarah Edwards won a gold medal in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday afternoon at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships being held at Sacramento State University in Sacramento, California.

The banner day for the Hokies also included a silver medal won by rising sophomore Laurie Barton. The Clemson, South Carolina native finished second in the women’s 800-meter run.

As a result of finishing in the top two of their respective events, both Edwards and Barton will be on the U.S. team that will compete at the Pan American Junior Championships held July 21-23 in Lima, Peru.

Edwards, a rising sophomore from Bellingham, Massachusetts who won the gold medal in the event at the ACC Championships and came in 10th at the NCAA Championships, won easily at this meet, running the event in a time of 10 minutes, 14.67 seconds. She took the lead on the opening lap and won by more than 11 seconds.

“I’m really happy with Sarah’s progress this year,” Tech distance coach Ben Thomas said. “She’s really adapted extremely well to one of track and field’s toughest events. Two months ago, she was having a typical rough freshman year, with not much success in terms of personal bests, but she kept showing up and doing the work – and now she’s a junior national making her first USA team.”

Barton, who had the third-best time in Friday’s semifinals, led after the first lap, but was overtaken in the final 400 meters by Caitlin Collier, who ran unattached. Barton still claimed the silver medal with a time of 2:05.09. The time marked a personal best for Barton, who finished fifth at the ACC Championships. She qualified for the NCAA Championships as an alternate to Tech’s 4x400-meter relay team, but did not participate.

“Laurie bounced back really well after struggling a bit in her preliminary heat,” Thomas said. "She ran more aggressive today and ran a really nice last 150 meters to make her first USA team. I think she still has a great deal of upside and hope to see her on more USA teams in the future.”

Also competing at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships, the Hokies’ Brandon Thomas, a rising sophomore from Richmond, came in sixth in the men’s 400-meter run, finishing with a time of 48.09 seconds.

The USA Junior Outdoor Championships are being held concurrently with the USA Outdoor Championships, and Tech’s Deakin Volz participated in the pole vault at that meet. Volz, a rising junior, did not finish in the top 10 of the event.

Former Tech standouts Kristi Castlin and Queen Harrison also are competing at the USA Outdoor Championships, and Castlin, an Olympic bronze medalist in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, came in sixth overall with a time of 12.91 seconds. Castlin advanced to the finals of the event after finishing fourth in her semifinal heat earlier Saturday with a time of 12.65 seconds. The top four in each of the two heats advanced to the finals.

Harrison, however, missed on advancing, coming in fifth in her semifinal heat with a time of 12.94 seconds.

Tech’s Drew Piazza concludes the Hokie action at the USA Outdoor Championships on Sunday when he runs in the finals of the men’s 800. His race takes place at approximately 4:20 p.m.

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