SUTTON — Sutton High has been blessed with an abundance of standout student-athletes over time, but those whose events include javelin, shotput, discus, triple jump, long jump, high jump, 100 meters, 110-meter hurdles, 400 meters and 1500 meters? And for good measure, toss in starting shooting guard on the varsity basketball team and a leader on the Sammies’ cross country squad.
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The distinction goes to 2022 SHS graduate Willem Edwards, whose track accomplishments were part of this year’s District E decathlon competition held last month. Edwards placed eighth in individual events while the team (consisting of Edwards, Kelvin Paulino-Acosta and Griffin Melia) recorded a stellar fourth-place finish.
“I was happy with my results,” said Edwards. “I got a few PRs (personal record). There were some events I didn’t do as well as I’d like to, but I finished top 10 and I can’t complain about that.
“I trained distance for most of the season. It really wasn’t until the end of the year that I started working on my throwing because that’s what I was worse at. I did a lot of work with my coaches and the throwers on my team for shotput and discus.”
Edwards has immersed himself in his chosen sports from an early age. He’s managed to harness his emotions for his many events and credits his success to coaching, training and chasing friends who were better than he was. Some he caught up with and some not so much, he pointed out.
“Once I got into high school, the competition part drove me to train and do as best as I can,” he explained. “You get some nerves, but you learn how to deal with them so that you don’t ruin your race. If you’re too nervous, you go out too quick and then you die. I’ve learned how to keep myself calm but if you’re not nervous, you’re not doing it right.
“Our team, at the beginning of the season, we make it a day where we run a mile and then we stop. Each of us has to give a low goal, a middle goal and then a high-in-the-sky goal, which is the hardest one. They don’t have to be about running but most of them are.”
One impediment to skill-building was the pandemic that shuttered all high school sports in the spring of 2020, his sophomore year. The disappointment of losing those days is palpable in discussing the effects of COVID-19 that robbed many friends of their senior seasons.
“COVID was really disappointing. I’d had a better cross country season than I expected to, and I was really hoping to come into track. I wasn’t sure what events I’d be doing, but I was going to earn some PRs and do as best as I can and maybe place in the league meet. But it all got shut down, and I missed out on the last season for some of my friends who were seniors.”
Edwards also endured his own medical setback that delayed his training.
“Ideally, you’d train for cross country throughout the summer; however, going into my senior year, I had surgery and didn’t get that summer training, which really hurt. Throughout the season, you start with low mileage, but you work it up as the season goes. It’s the same thing with track and then with basketball. It’s mostly playing basketball with my friends.”
Edwards was a four-year starter for the Sammies boys basketball team. His coach, Andrew Niedzwiecki, recalled one of Edwards’ best moments from this past season.
“Will is a great kid. He’s the type of person you love having on your team as he is always about the team first. As a coach, I always know that I’m getting an honest effort out of Will, and I know that he’ll concentrate on making the right play instead of trying to force a low-percentage spectacular play,” he said.
“His best moment was in our game at Bartlett this past season where Will was the designated passer on a play we ran on the last possession of the game. He caught the ball and noticed that the play had broken down, so he made a great ball fake and drive the ball to the basket and hit a layup as time expired for us to win the game at the buzzer. It truly was a fantastic moment for him.
“Coach Magner and I wanted Will in that spot at that moment, as we felt that Will would make the right type of pass, but when things broke down, he was able to make the right type of play on his own.
“Will is a great kid and a solid leader and I’m glad he was part of the program for 4 years.” added Niedzwiecki
Edwards will be off to Springfield College in the fall, where he will major in health science on a pre-physical therapy track. He’s undecided as to whether sports are in his future. In the meantime, he expresses his gratitude for the opportunities provided by his coaches, teammates and community.
“I feel a sense of pride, and I want to represent my town with the three sports I do,” said Edwards, who was a Student Council and National Honor Society member. “My school has a strong history of doing well and when we get down, we pick ourselves up and do better.
“I like to give back to my community. Representation in sports isn’t really the same as representing my community as well as I can, so I like to do a lot of community service, In 8th and 9th grade, I held a 9-11 tribute, and I hoped to do that every year through high school but the pandemic shut that down.”