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Leaving on a high note: Edmondson moving to South Forsyth after leading Riverside to GISA title

POSTED: June 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA | The Times/

Former Riverside Military Academy coach Jerry Edmondson has been named Track Coach of the Year by the Georgia Independent Schools Association. Edmondson served as track coach at Riverside for 11 seasons.

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For one moment, Jerry Edmondson didn’t care about his future.

As the Riverside Military Academy track team was celebrating its first state title at this year’s Georgia Independent Schools Association meet on April 25 in Albany, the former Eagles coach could only sit and reminisce.

Not once did he think about his career after that day — how he would no longer be Riverside coach, but instead become the coach of South Forsyth High in Cumming.

“It was bittersweet,” Edmondson said of winning a state title in his final year at Riverside. “The emotions were focused on the kids and what we accomplished.

“I didn’t think a whole lot about my new job that was waiting,” he added. “I just relished in the moment.”

The moment was 11 years in the making and was topped off by Riverside’s former cross country and track coach being named the GISA track coach of the year.

“Any time your peers give you that type of award, that’s certainly the highest honor a coach can have,” said Edmondson, 46, who came to Riverside after a 10-year career in the corporate health and wellness field, and a two-year coaching stint at North Hall. “You look up to your friends, your peers, your comrades, and to get that award was just super, super nice.”

It was a fitting honor for a man who believes that coaching is in his blood and something that he was born to do.

“Having the opportunity to come back and coach after I left for so long was just a great opportunity,” said Edmondson, who resides in Gainesville with his wife of four and a half years, Rebecca, and his 17-year-old son Andy, a baseball and basketball player at Gainesville High. “I firmly believe that coming back to coaching was the best decision of my life.”

While some coaches might shy away from coaching at an all-boys private military school, Edmondson was the complete opposite.

“Riverside has a great tradition and a great athletic program,” he said. “They have expectations for the boys that come here to not only participate, but to compete, and that was appealing for me.”

One of those boys was Ewin Holyfield, who placed first in the state meet in the 200-meter run, and was a member of the Eagles 4x100 and 4x400-meter relay teams that also placed first. According to the recent graduate, Edmondson not only helped Riverside capture a state title, but he was the main reason it won.

“He’s a great coach, and he’ll do anything for you,” said Holyfield, who will be attending West Alabama on a football scholarship. “He made sure everyone was committed to track, and everyone that was committed helped us win the championship.

“We won for coach, and it felt good winning it for him.”

For the past 11 years, Edmondson has worked diligently trying to win a state championship at Riverside, and despite the fruits of his coaching efforts finally coming to fruition this season, the former 400-meter hurdler at West Georgia knew it was time to make a change in his life.

But the decision to leave was not an easy one.

“I put a lot of heart-felt thoughts into this, and I do leave with some sadness,” said the 1980 graduate of Cherokee High in Canton. “I will always hold (Riverside) very dear. It’s been very good to me, the Riverside family, but this is a great opportunity for me at this point in my life.

“It’s a new challenge in a bigger program with more kids involved.”

Sitting atop the guardrail outside of the track at Riverside Military Academy, Edmondson realized that his new position at South Forsyth will bring a new obstacle. But some things at his new school, specifically the colors and the mascot, will be familiar.

“They’re also Eagles — War Eagles — so I’m going from one eagle to the next,” said Edmondson, sporting a blue-and-white striped polo shirt, the school colors of South Forsyth and Riverside Military.

“My wife loves that the colors are the same,” he added. “Some of the stuff I’ve purchased over the years, including the gear I run in, are those colors. That’s a plus.”

While he won’t undergo any major wardrobe changes, the challenges that lie ahead for Edmondson, who will be the head coach of the cross country teams and an assistant coach with the track program at South Forsyth, are plentiful.

For starters, the War Eagles compete in Region 7-AAAAA, which features schools like Mill Creek, Norcross, Peachtree Ridge and Collins Hill, whose girls have won the state championship in cross country five straight years and whose boys won the state championship in 2007.

“That region we’re in has great schools with a great winning tradition,” Edmondson said. “It’s going to be a challenge for me.”

Another upcoming challenge is the year-round dedication that Edmondson will have to dedicate to his new position.

“Probably the most difficult thing is the time span,” said Edmondson. “I’ll have a summer workout with kids that they did not have at Riverside.”

Riverside’s cross country runners typically did not report to campus until right before school started. And , despite the extra workload and new challenge, being able to work with athletes for 365 days a year is something Edmondson is looking forward to.

“I will have the opportunity to work with the kids on a year-round basis and that did play in to my decision to take the job,” said Edmondson, who will be working in South Forsyth’s physical education department.

Working with more athletes year-round and preparing them for an ultra-competitive region is one thing, but for the lifelong track coach, the change in job titles might be the hardest obstacle to overcome.

“I probably have more of a track background,” Edmondson said. “But it’s a new challenge for me, and I look forward to it.”

That challenge will undoubtedly be met with as much fury and energy as he had when he first took the Riverside job 11 years ago. And if that’s the case, the future that Edmondson forgot while watching his team celebrate, will be one that he’ll always remember.



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