Davis closes out her high school career today

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Janice Davis has been splurging. Just last week she had a couple slices of a thin crust pizza, covered with bubbling cheese and bacon.

A month ago she pulled her black Honda Accord parallel with the drive-thru menu at McDonald’s and enjoyed her first No. 4 &045; Quarter-Pounder (extra cheese, no onions), big lemonade and, of course, a red and yellow cardboard box full of fries &045; for the first time since last September.

An 18-year-old can only take so many baked dinners. Baked chicken, baked fish, baked pork.

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&uot;I eat whatever my mom brings home because she does the grocery shopping,&uot; Davis said. &uot;I can’t eat fried foods, and it’s hard to drink water all the time. I like sweet blue Powerade or lemonade.&uot;

Restricting her diet is just one of the many ways Davis has become a world-class sprinter and a three-time member of the USA Track and Field Team.

Since August, Davis, who is headed to Stanford in the fall, has had a bad case of senioritis. She’ll take her final three exams Tuesday, and all that will be left academically is a graduation ceremony.

But before she dons the cap and gown, her biggest test outside of the classroom will come in Jackson at the MHSAA state championships today in Jackson, where she’ll slide into her blue and gold Natchez High tights one final time.

&uot;I’m prepared and ready. I’m 100 percent supportive of it,&uot; said mother Janice Davis, who has been in the blocks by her daughter’s side since Janice was 6. &uot;I know she’ll be quite successful (at Stanford). I’m going to have to get used to not going to track meets every week. But I think I’ll make the adjustment.&uot;

Nothing has changed. B.J., short for &uot;Baby Janice,&uot; will again get into a four-point stance to compete in her bread-and-butter events &045; the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes &045; and also act as a leg on the Lady Bulldogs mile relay team.

After being hampered by tendonitis in her foot to start the season, Davis returned to her old self, sweeping through her events at the division, regional and last week’s South State championships.

&uot;Actually I’ve been very nervous about this meet,&uot; Davis said of today. &uot;Tuesday I started tossing and turning in my sleep, and then I began biting my fingernails.&uot;

But Friday, shortly after noon, less than 24 hours before she began the end, Davis was slapping one hand on top of the other, bouncing off a few dance moves and flashing a blissful, confident smile.

If you are not a part of the Davis’ inner circle, which includes her mother, teammates, current coach Larry Wesley and the man who scratched the first itch Henry &uot;Doc&uot; Woods, it is understandable if her confidence comes across as arrogance.

&uot;I hate to lose. I’m a workaholic,&uot; Davis said. &uot;My parents say I’m the only athlete they know who goes and practice when I get upset.&uot;

The elder of the two Davises said there was a moment, two years after 7-year-old Janice had signed on with Woods’ summer team, where she thought of yanking her child from track all together.

It was in an unforgiving Port Gibson summer day, with temperatures in the mid-90s and no shade. Mom Davis told Woods she couldn’t make it.

The coach calmed her down and told her everything would be all right, and in the 11 years since the only meets Janice Davis has not seen her daughter run in were the three international events with the USA team.

The shoe is now on the other foot, as Davis rah-rahs parents who are wavering on whether or not to get their children involved with Woods.

&uot;It’s going to be hot, you’re going to miserable, but in the end it’s worth it,&uot; she said. &uot;I’d do it all over again. We were in Omaha, Neb., one time and it was 115 degrees and I said, ‘If Hell is anything like this, I got to get right.’&uot;

Like her mother, Janice Davis has missed three family events. Because the state meet is in early May, it typically coincides with several universities’ commencement ceremonies.

She’s been absent for both sisters’ graduations &045; Winola from Alcorn State in 2001 and Benetta from Howard University last year &045; and today Davis will be stretching out when her mother walks across Alcorn’s stage to accept her diploma in elementary education.

&uot;I’ve arranged it with some people on campus to park in a spot near the gates,&uot; Davis’ mother said. &uot;As soon as they call my name, I’m getting my piece of paper and leaving for Jackson.&uot;

Even though she’s already talked about being an NCAA All-American next year, chances are Davis won’t let her athletic career force her to miss her own graduation from Stanford in several years.

After a visit to Miami proved to her she would not be getting any work done, and visits to Texas and UCLA were subpar, Davis, and her mother dropped in on Stanford, where it was kismet.

&uot;With her academic standards, I believe she will stay the course,&uot; said coach Woods of Davis, who could be Natchez High’s valedictorian pending exams. &uot;She’s always been a crowd pleaser and someone for the girls to depend on. College is rough and tough, but she has a lot of people here to call on if she needs us.&uot;

If there’s one thing Davis is looking forward to about college life, it’s the freedom. She talks on the phone, and through e-mails with her older friends from the USA team and turns green with envy.

As she counts down the days to Sept. 17 when she’ll head to the left coast, she imagines her first semester and wants it all &045; the 2 a.m. crammings, the 1 p.m. classes, wasting time hanging out with friends.

&uot;Most of my friends don’t want a roommate, but I do,&uot; Davis said. &uot;I know it’s going to be a new environment for me, especially with winning. College is fun, but it’s going to be all business too.

&uot;The main thing I’m looking forward to in college is the people who understand the price of winning and what it takes.&uot;

Janice Davis is following Destiny Avenue around every sharp turn and straightaway.

Everything about her says discipline. Well, except for the occasional craving for a Twix bar or a pack of chewy, tart wild berry Skittles. She can’t help herself; who can?

Davis has given herself, her family and friends and Natchez a lot to be proud of, and maybe in B.J.’s final run her history, albeit young, will sprint with her to the tape.

Let’s get real, though. She’ll probably only be thinking about beaches, vegans, liberals, Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

&uot;I’m not concerned with times or records today,&uot; Davis said. &uot;I just want to run and win.

&uot;Then I’ll be free.&uot;