NATCHEZ The city of Natchez has produced plenty of great athletes over the years, but one athlete has the opportunity to go where few (if any) Natchezian have gone before.

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

Janice Davis, a Natchez High graduate heading into her senior year at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., has designs on turning pro upon finishing college, and then maybe even competing in the Olympics.

She will graduate from Stanford in June, and between now and then plans to define which events she should focus on for her pro career.

&8220;Right now I&8217;m a 1, 2, 4 runner (100- 200- and 400-meter), but I haven&8217;t really specialized yet,&8221; Davis said. &8220;My coach and I are going to have weekly meetings to see how I&8217;m doing and what I need to work on. I want to find what I can peak at. This is it. I don&8217;t have another year of college after this one.&8221;

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Since arriving at Stanford, Davis has been named an All-American twice and ran off with four school records.

Her time there has been a tremendous success, but Davis said she hadn&8217;t even considered going to Stanford until late in the recruiting game.

&8220;I wasn&8217;t initially even considering Stanford,&8221; she said. &8220;I was planning on going to UCLA, because I had always wanted to be a Bruin. I don&8217;t know where that came from, but I always did. I was also considering Texas and Miami. I didn&8217;t like Texas that much, and I loved Miami. The coaches (from Stanford) came by to visit me that summer (before my senior year) and I went for a visit.

&8220;(Stanford) answered all my questions. My dad made me put together a list of questions of what I&8217;d want academically, athletically and socially, and Stanford answered all of them. It wasn&8217;t an easy decision. I didn&8217;t like it at first, but now I&8217;m glad I went there.&8221;

One reason Davis had a hard time at Stanford to begin with was finding herself &8212; for the first time &8212; not the smartest student in the room.

&8220;It was tough at first,&8221; she said. &8220;I had a hard time with working as hard as I was just to be average. Before I could work hard and make high As, but now I was having trouble making Bs. It made me a better student.&8221;

That competitiveness also translated over into the Cardinal track program, where everyone was expected to chip in.

&8220;It&8217;s been pretty competitive,&8221; she said. &8220;We&8217;re not a powerhouse, so everyone has to pick up the slack. Sometimes thing haven&8217;t gone the way we&8217;ve hoped, but it&8217;s gone pretty well overall.&8221;

Davis currently has two dates in 2007 on her mind &8212; June 17, when she will graduate, and August 24, when the IAAF World Championships will begin in Osaka, Japan.

&8220;I&8217;m hoping to establish

myself and be on a team by the time the World Championships start,&8221; she said. &8220;Hopefully I can do that by that time.&8221;

Some might be surprised to see a young woman from Natchez thriving on the West Coast, but Davis had plenty of advice for others on how to make it big in the world.

&8220;Make sure you look at the long-term benefit in what you&8217;re doing,&8221; she said. &8220;Don&8217;t go for the instant gratification. I could&8217;ve gone to Miami, because I loved it, but it was better for me to go to Stanford in the long run. Let things grow on you. You might find yourself a long way from home, but you&8217;ll get used to it. Just work hard. It isn&8217;t easy to do, but it&8217;s what you have to do.&8221;