NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Matt Edwards was used to traveling for competition, but nothing like this.
The gravity of his decision didn't set in until he was drifting through the clouds in an airplane crossing the Atlantic Ocean. He was really going to the United States.
"That's when it clicked," Edwards remembers thinking. "I've just left everything."
Barely a year ago, the Glamorgan, Wales, native landed in America to begin graduate school at Belmont University and run for the Bruins men's cross country program. As scary as the decision was then, it's been a thrilling ride so far.
Growing up in the U.K., Edwards was an avid football fan and player. Of course that's European football, or soccer to most of his Bruins teammates now. Around 16 years old, he realized he had no future in the sport he loved, but running was about to open some doors.
"It killed me to stop playing, but at 16 I decided it was the way to go forward," he explained.
He attended Cardiff Metropolitan University and worked his way into a captaincy position with the cross country team. There he represented Wales on an international level -- running in countries like Belgium, Ireland and Malta -- and led CMU to a national third-place finish at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) cross country championships.
It's a little different competition than even the NCAA Region championships though, Edwards acknowledged.
"Nothing compared with coming out to America," he said. "It opens up your eyes. You're home and you're top five in your country at BUCS, but you come here and end up 50th."
The Bruins and program director Jeff Langdon upped Edwards' mileage and endurance quickly. As an international transfer student, his time at Belmont is inherintly limited. He graduated in three years at CMU, one a redshirt season, to leave him two years of competition by NCAA eligibility standards.
In Year 1 he peaked in a 12th-place finish at the Ohio Valley Conference meet. In Week 1 of this season, Edwards set a 5K personal best 15:25.35 to win the Belmont Opener for his first career victory.
Coming down the homestretch of his collegiate running career -- the Bruins have just two regular season races left -- Edwards is determined to make the most of his remaining time as a Bruin. He expects to graduate in the spring with a master's degree in Sport Administration.
The Belmont men's and women's cross country teams are in Kentucky this week for the Louisville Classic on Saturday. The men's 8K race is slated for 8:30 a.m. Central with the women to follow at 9:15 a.m.