Davis sets sights on 2008 Olympics

Published 12:38 am Thursday, June 28, 2007

NATCHEZ — Track star Janice Davis has lived her 22 years by one cocky motto.

“If you want me, come get me.”

Don’t mistake it as arrogance. It is pure confidence. Davis was “born to run.”

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She started running on a course her grandmother cut out in the backyard. Davis’ competition was her siblings and neighborhood friends.

But for the past four years, Davis has been running for Stanford University. She has run on tracks all over the United States. Now she is focused on making the U.S. Olympic Team.

She started to run competitive track after Natchez coach Henry “Doc” Woods took her on as a pupil.

“She was good from an early age,” Woods said.

Under Woods’ training Davis dominated everyone around her.

She set records throughout her career at Natchez High School. She competed in the 100, 200 and 400-meter events.

It was in January of 2003 Davis decided to continue her track career at Stanford in northern California.

Heading to Stanford was a big change for Davis.

“It was a culture shock, she said. I became a little fish in an ocean.”

Moving from Natchez to Stanford took getting used to. She became familiar with the “Stanford duck syndrome.”

“The Stanford duck syndrome is when everything looks calm and steady on the surface, but underneath things are moving a million miles per hour, she said.”

Davis quickly learned competition at track practice was closely rivaled by the competition in the classroom.

“I was around people that talked about their internships with big companies.”

Davis’ competitive nature set in and she wanted to be more than just another “athlete.”

She had to balance the grueling schedule of practices and meets with studying and going to class.

“We had quarter systems (at Stanford). So I had class every day. I had to be well organized, she said.

A typical day consisted of early morning workouts and drills, classes all day and afternoon runs. She had to work through the pain and exhaustion to study and go to tutors in the evening.

During her four-year career at Stanford, Davis had many milestones.

She was a five-time All-American, 2004 Freshman Track Athlete of the Year and runner-up in the 100,200 and 4×100 relay at the Pac 10 championship.

One of her greatest accomplishments came in her sophomore year at the NCAA track meet. It was in the 4×400 relay.

“Coach came and yelled at us before the race,” she said. “I was in the second leg of the relay, which is the hardest leg. I refused to be embarrassed on TV.”

When Davis was passed the baton, she forgot about pacing herself.

“I was gone. I just kept telling myself, if they want me, come get me.”

Her gamble paid off. Her effort helped set a school record time of 3:29:39. Stanford finished sixth in the meet.

Davis’ career ended in May. She ran her last meet and graduated with a degree in human biology.

But the homestretch was anything but easy since.

Since January, she has battled with a severe hamstring injury that forced her to miss several meets.

After three months of treatment and rehab, Davis was ready to return to the track. Her return was a rocky one.

“I was still strong but I had to retrain my muscles.”

The lay-off had caused Davis her explosiveness and agility. She had to learn technique all over again.

It wasn’t until May that she really started to see improvement.

The lowest point of the injury came in the 2007 Pac 10 Championship. Davis was the favorite to win but was disqualified for false starting.

“I jumped out of the blocks. I wasn’t confident (after the injury). Before, I never paid attention to runners next to me.”

But Davis has recovered from her miss step and is focused on the future.

“I want to be an orthopedic surgeon some day.”

But she’s not done running yet.

She will head to Miami this summer to train for the Olympic qualifiers next year. While in Miami, she will train with track coach Amy Deem.

“I will make the U.S. team,” she said. “I want to go to the Olympics.”