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Former track star Davis pursuing medicine

David Gonzales | Stanfordphoto.com Janice Davis takes off in a Stanford track event May 1, 2004. Davis is a former Natchez High School standout.
David Gonzales | Stanfordphoto.com
Janice Davis takes off in a Stanford track event May 1, 2004. Davis is a former Natchez High School standout.

NATCHEZ — Janice Davis was one of the fastest runners Natchez had ever seen in 2003, but today Davis has put away her track shoes and picked up a scalpel.

Davis, a former Natchez High School standout, was on track to becoming an Olympian as she broke many records as a Lady Bulldog, won three state championships and was featured in Sports Illustrated.

Going into her senior year, Davis was blessed with a big choice most athletes don’t get. She could pick any college in the country to attend.

“I was set on going to UCLA since middle school,” Davis said. “I had offers pretty much anywhere, and UCLA was my No. 1 choice. But I needed to find a school that would be the perfect blend (of academics and athletics). My mom suggested Stanford (University).”

Though Davis took her mother’s advice into consideration, she thought she already had her mind set on UCLA.

“When I was finally 17 and in my head I knew I wanted to go to UCLA, but I applied to Stanford and got in,” Davis said. “I remember weighing my options heavily. It wasn’t an easy decision.

“But Stanford was the better choice in the long run. I thought, in the next 40 years how do I want to dictate my life? So I made the choice to go to Stanford.”

Heading to California was a turnaround for Davis, and she said being in a different environment took some getting used to.

“It was a culture shock,” Davis said. “It was my first time 2,000 miles away, and I didn’t know anybody.

“It took two full years to get 100 percent comfortable with the lifestyle and the curriculum. (Natchez High) gave me the best opportunity (to be successful), but to compete on (Stanford’s) level, I had to make serious adjustments.”

Getting her life prioritized in the classroom was just half the battle.

“Stanford’s practices were harder, it was very challenging,” she said. “Getting up at 5 a.m. (for practice), then eat and go to class and then (I had another practice). I had great time management skills (by the time I graduated).”

Davis had no choice but to learn how to manage being a college athlete, and by the time she was a senior, she had mastered juggling school and sports.

She was a five-time All-American, she ranks in Stanford’s all-time top 10 in individual events in the outdoors 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and the indoors 60-meter dash and 200-meter dash.

She graduated from Stanford in 2007 with a degree in human biology, but though her college career was over, she still had plans to continue running, but those plans were had taken a turn.

“I was in Miami, Florida training for 2008 Olympics and I had an injury that pretty much ended my career,” Davis said.

Davis was faced with letting go her of dreams of becoming a professional track star or risking everything she worked toward in the classroom for a body that was wearing down.

“It was risky to weigh the benefits, but I was looking at my decision long term,” she said. “So I stopped running and eventually moved to Georgia and got my masters in public health from Emory (University).”

From there, Davis was transferred to Charleston, S.C., to finish a fellowship she obtained with Emory.

Before she knew it, Davis was asking herself if she would continue pushing through school beyond a master’s degree.

She said she became comfortable in Charleston, where she now resides, and decided to enroll into the Medical University of South Carolina, where she is specializing in surgery.

Davis plans to graduate in 2016.

“(My career) didn’t go as well as it should’ve gone, there are some things I would’ve done differently,” she said. “But I would encourage anybody to get involved in a sport.”

Davis said being a student athlete prepared her for hectic and stressful days, adding she is a better person because of what sports taught her.

“I learned that no dream is outrageous if it’s something you really want to do,” she said. “I learned that sometimes you will get criticized, but you have to have thick skin.”