BY JAMES HARPER
Reta Woodard and Mike Edwards have a number of things in common.
They are Embry Riddle Aeronautical University students who hope to graduate this year, they are ERAU athletes, and both have dreams of going to the 2016 Olympics in Russia.
Woodard is majoring in air traffic management while Edwards hopes to complete his degree in aviation communications.
Weight, hammer throw pro
Woodard is returning as a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics two time National Champion in both the weight (2011) and hammer throw (2013) as well as a six time All American.
She says her favorite sport is throwing the hammer.
“After receiving my national title in the weight, I knew a hammer title would follow,” she said.
Her plans this year are to win another national title in the weight throw and defend her title in the hammer.
“Next year I will come back to win the weight throw once again and defend my title in the hammer. I am also hoping to obtain a national championship in the discus as well,” she continued.
Woodard said her goal this school year is to compete in the USA National Championships both for indoor and outdoor and eventually make her way up to the Olympic trials.
“It’s going to be a long process but a sweet one nonetheless. I will take one day at time and pursue my dreams as an Olympic hopeful,” Woodward said.
Woodard did not begin sports until her junior year in high school.
“Before junior year, my mother was always pushing me to join a sport, particularly track and field. My mother was also a great thrower and she was my first coach, both supporting and pushing me to do better and she still does,” Woodard explained.
“I went to the track one day and tried the shot put. I was good at it and here I am, thinking about the Olympics. So far my journey as a thrower has been outstanding and I am nowhere close to being done. To some it may seem like a far reach but for me the reach is not far at all. To all my supporters, a very warm thank you, whom without, my dream would not shine as bright,” she concluded.
Born in Philadelphia, the 22-year-old is the daughter of Robert and Patricia Woodard.
High jump expert
Mike Edwards is a long way from home. He was born in Manchester, England.
ERAU is the third college he has attended while living in the United States.
“I am planning on a career move back to England upon graduation in December so I can train full time leading up to the next Olympics. It has been my lifelong dream to become an Olympian and I believe being back in England will increase my chances,” Edwards said.
He recently won the Outdoor NAIA National High Jump title.
Though he is now sponsored by Adidas, Edwards says he still has financial concerns.
“With training full time and competing, it’s really difficult to have a job at this level. I can’t afford to cut back on my training now since I am so close to my goals,” he continued.
Before graduating this year, Edwards said he will be doing some public speaking at area high schools and middle schools.
“My goal is to try to motivate the next generation and inspire more kids to be involved,” he said.
Edwards started athletics during his second year in high school. By his third year he was clearing heights of 2.14m and receiving many college offers.
Harvey Glance, the former head coach at the University of Alabama, offered Edwards a full scholarship.
“After taking my official visit to Alabama, I signed the next day,” Edwards said.
Edwards’ second year at Alabama was his first official season. Unfortunately he suffered an injury in his hamstring preventing him from finishing the season.
Also during that time, Glance announced he would retire.
“I had mixed feelings about who would step in for his replacement so I decided to transfer to the University of Louisville,” Edwards said.
At Louisville, he was coached under former U.S. high jumper Jake Jacoby. Edwards called it a perfect fit.
During that season, Edwards would learn that Jacoby was leaving Louisville, which he said made him furious.
“But I knew I could not let it distract me. I continued as normal but did not jump any higher for the rest of the season,” he noted.
He would return to the United Kingdom to train. A discussion with National Jumps Coach Fuzz Ahmed helped Edwards decide to transfer to ERAU.
Other Olympians already were training at ERAU.