2017-03-02 / Around Town

Track Star Makes Run to Race Down Under

Conversation with Duwuan Edwards
By James Merolla

In the grandeur of Yale Stadium in New Haven, Connecticut earlier this season, Duwuan Edwards stretched his tendons, adjusted his black-and-green Ray-Ban sunglasses, tuned out the noise and won a silver medal in the 400 meters for Bishop Hendricken High School.

Edwards, 16, a tall and lanky sophomore, is fascinated with history. And this summer he might make some.

The Newport native has been invited along with other local schoolboy runners to represent Rhode Island at the 2017 Down Under Games to be held in July on the Gold Coast of Australia. The event, founded in 1989, features team and individual competition in wrestling, football, cross-country, golf, track and field, basketball and volleyball. The Games were the brainchild of George O’Scanlon, a New Zealander who fell in love with American football and yearned to promote gridiron sports in his native land.

Edwards must pay his own way to Australia and has received plenty of help. Felicia Edwards, his mother, has worked at Bagel Boys in Middletown for 14 years. She said that friends, loyal customers and the Newport Police Department have been terrific in getting the word out, helping to raise $5,700 for the nine-day journey across the world.

When Edwards received his invitation to the Games, he sent a photo of it to his mother’s iPhone. “I was really, really happy,” she said. “I was very proud because Duwuan works very hard.”

“I didn’t realize what it meant at the time [to be invited to the Games],” the runner said. “The first thing I did was go to my coach. He congratulated me. It tells me I’m on the radar.”

Edwards’ rise as an athlete has been rapid. He played only one season at defensive end on the freshman football team when his coach, who was also the assistant track coach, noticed his burst of speed and said, “Hey, you have got to come out for track.”

In his debut season, he placed first in the 400 meters and the high jump, and was part of a freshman squad that captured state championships in indoor and outdoor track. This season, he had the opportunity to compete at indoor meets at Yale and Dartmouth, where he came away impressed with the history of both Ivy League institutions.

“I like almost any period of history,” he said. “I am always fascinated to learn what others did and how it affected the world. I learned how successful Bishop Hendricken has been. I want to be successful in my life, so I chose this school because I thought it could help me.”

“Duwuan Edwards is a wonderful young man. Bishop Hendricken is very proud of Duwuan and wishes him all the best in his pursuit to join the team in the Down Under Games,” said Michele King, the school’s director of communications.

Edwards’ ability to block out distractions was honed at home. His younger sister, Melanniya, is a talented gymnast and practices on uneven parallel bars that have been set up in the living room. The halls are filled with toys. His large family has helped him master the art of blocking out the noise, even from crying toddlers.

“I zone out,” he said. “At the meets, everyone is yelling. But you can hear the coach yelling at you all the way around the track. It’s a mindset you have to have.”

Edwards is using the invitation to the Games as motivation for the remainder of the indoor track season and for the start of spring track.

“When I run poorly, I say to myself, ‘I should run better than this!’” he said. “I can’t wait to go to Australia.”

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