By Stacey Lockett
To say Warren Edmonson is an icon at California State University, Dominguez Hills is putting it lightly. In his 16 years as head track and field coach, the longest coaching tenure in Toro history, he has coached 34 All-Americans, including Carmelita Jeter, a three-time Olympic medalist often referred to as the fastest woman on the planet.
And fast is something Edmonson can relate to. In 1973, while competing on a professional track touring team, Edmonson broke the 100-meter record, at 10.2 seconds. With it, came the title “fastest man in the world.”
Before that, he was a highly decorated high school and college sprinter, competing with UCLA in 1971 and 1972, where he held the national NCAA record in the 100-meters.
Unfortunately, Edmonson, who grew up with pictures of famous U.S. Olympians adorning his bedroom walls, never got to compete in the Summer Olympics. His best chance was 1972, but two weeks before the qualifiers, he pulled a hamstring in an NCAA meet. Unable to practice for those two weeks, he still competed in the qualifiers, but wound up finishing fifth.
“It was devastating to me, because at that particular time, I was number one in the world, and I entered into a meet two week prior to the Olympic tryouts, and ran an event I shouldn’t have ran in,” Edmonson said.
“I look back on it and it wasn’t supposed to happen,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be, I have another purpose.”
That purpose is using what he learned as an athlete and trying to guide young women athletes to maximize their athletic talent while serving as a positive role model for them in other aspects of their lives. He takes his role of mentor seriously and stresses the need to graduate because his athletes must look past track, because their careers will be short.
“He really wants us to be successful in life. He is a very positive coach,” said Chez Ortiz a freshman on the track team. “I never really had a coach that I’m close to in my life so when I come here to college, and I see that I’m close to a coach that really believes in me, it really motivates me more to be on that team.”
“I love what I do, I love working with the female athlete,” Edmonson said. “I had two daughters who I trained, and both of my daughters got scholarships to USC and graduated on track and field scholarships. So, I know the importance of education. (And) I like helping the black female, because it’s kind of hard. They need somebody in their corner and I’m here for them.”
Edmonson began his teaching career in 1985, working with kids ages 6 to 18 In a youth sports organization Before coming to CSUDH in 2000, he was the sprint coach at St Bernard’s High School, where his team set the national record in the 4×100 relay, a record that still stands.
His first semester at CSUDH, where he served as sprint coach before being elevated to head coach in2002, was also the first semester for Jeter, who would wind up being CSUDH’s first Olympian.
“I had the opportunity to coach by his side last season with the women’s track team and I must say it was like old times,” Jeter said, in an email. “Coach E played a huge roll in my life on and off the track and I will forever be in his debt…”
Edmondson says one of the keys to track being the most successful of CSUDH’s athletic teams is that he looks for what he calls “diamond in the roughs.”
“We’re never going to the number one (local) runners,” he said. “They’re going to go to USC or UCLA. So, I try to look for athletes who are a little more under the radar. Those who I think I can help develop in their time here.”
And has Edmondson enjoyed his tenure at CSUDH?
“I (have) loved it. “This is my 18th year and I have had 34 All-Americans since I’ve been here, and I have (coached) Carmelita Jeter. I guess you could say this is my home.”