WHEN SHE BLISTERED THE 60 at the Gamecock Opener in a stunning 7.19, tying the national High School Record and beating a solid college/pro field, that was all part of the plan for wunderkind sprinter Tamari Davis (East Ridge, Clermont, Florida), right? Not exactly. Coach Gary Evans—the same Gary Evans who guided Bahamian Steven Gardiner to the World Championships 400 gold last year—was caught off guard by his prodigy’s record dash. “She just made me change my whole game plan,” he says, laughing.
Davis, who holds the national frosh-class 100 and 200 records outdoors, has barely gotten going on her winter routine. “Tamari started training again in November,” Evans explains. “We were on grass all the way to January 6. We practice three days a week and one day we still kept on grass. The other days, I’m telling you the farthest we’ve gone and the fastest we’ve done have been 300s and 150s, and the 150s only about 20-second pace.”
He continues, “The only thing she did fast the week before the meet, she did some blocks. That was it. So me seeing that in practice, no, I did not see 7.19 coming. I thought she was probably going to run 7.3-low, maybe 7.2-high. According to the training that we’re doing, that’s where she should have been. But her legs are moving faster than my thoughts.”
Davis, who will turn 17 in mid-February, is now a junior at East Ridge after transferring from Gainesville’s Oak Hall. She was just as surprised as her coach by the record run. “I was very shocked,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting to run that fast, honestly. I just wanted to go into the race PRing and I PRed big time, so I was very happy.” Davis only ran the 60 in two meets last year, and she’s enjoying the chance to do the short dash more often: “Last year, I didn’t really focus on the 60 that much. I ran more 200s. But this year I’m focusing more on 60s to get my start good for the outdoor season.” She did run the 60 enough to set a national soph-class record of 7.27, not quite as her frosh-class standard of 7.25 in ’18.
Racing against pros and top-shelf collegians doesn’t rattle her at all. “It’s a great experience,” she says. “I’m a youngster running against them. My mindset is just go into the race and PR. I don’t care what place I get. I just want to PR because I’m racing to get some amazing performances.”
Evans says that the performance has caused him to rewrite her schedule, explaining, “You know me, I don’t believe in running them a lot.” He has pulled her from an upcoming 200 at Clemson. Her next race will be a smaller meet on February 8. “If she runs that good in the prelims, that will be it. We won’t come back for the finals.” Then she goes to the USATF Championships in Albuquerque. “Let’s give her a shot,” projects Evans. “Since we’re going to do the Olympic Trials, let’s go ahead and run against the big girls indoors. See what happens, roll the dice. That’s her birthday weekend, she might get blessed.”
Davis is ready for whatever the campaign brings, saying, “We’ve been working very hard for this upcoming season. I’m fired up about all the upcoming things.” With her sights on the Trials, she and Evans have not ruled out participating in the World Junior (U20) Championships. The qualifying meet, the USATF Juniors, is June 12-14. At the Trials, the first round for the 200—her probable choice—starts on June 25.
“She’s going to do both,” says Evans. “I’m not having her double up. She would just do one event at both of them. If she makes the Olympic team, of course, we’ll give up her spot on the World Juniors, but if she doesn’t, she’ll just do the World Juniors.”
“It’s going to be a great experience,” says Davis. “I can’t wait for summer to hit.”