Tamari Davis (Gainesville, Florida) admits that her historic 22.48 win in the State-3A 200 was fueled by her emotions. Earlier, she had run 11.36 in the 100, losing to the 11.31 of Briana Williams (Northeast, Oakland Park). No shame in that, as Williams, a Jamaican, earlier this year broke Marion Jones’s world age-15 record with an 11.13.
But Davis didn’t see it that way. For the half-lapper, she says, “I just came on that race track with anger. I just wanted to go all out and see the outcome of it.”
The precocious 9th-grader powered to an 8m win over Williams. The crowd gasped at the time on the clock, which initially read 22.44. “It was crazy,” says Davis. “I’m still shocked with what I ran. I’m still being shocked. Kind of like it doesn’t seem to be real, but it is real.”
Not that Davis wasn’t already very much on the radar. Invited to a prep all-star race at last year’s Prefontaine Classic as a 14-year-old 8th-grader she shocked a field of older runners with a world age best of 23.21. She went on to become T&FN’s No. 1 All-America in the event.
Davis, says coach Gary Evans, still really doesn’t appreciate what she’s doing. “I don’t think she realizes some of the things that she’s doing timewise on the track… where does that put her on the scale with some of the other elite athletes that came through high school. You know, she still wants to be that little girl, she wants to have fun. And you have to keep that in there.”
Evans has been working with Davis since she was a 7-year-old following her brother to practice with his youth track club. Says Davis, “He was winning a lot and he was bringing home medals and I was sitting around playing. I wanted to get medals too. So my momma signed me up.”
Her brother moved on to basketball, but Davis stuck with track. Early on, she had a habit of starting out slow so that she could catch everybody at the end. Now she goes hard from the start.
Evans also coaches a number of world-class athletes for adidas, including 400 world leader Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, who predicted that Davis had a fast 200 in her. Recounts Evans, “He was at a practice where he said, ‘Coach, this girl, she’s super-fast. She’s going to run 22-low.’ I’m like, ‘No Steven, maybe 22.9 or something like that.’
“That’s God-given talent. I mean all I can do is go in and adjust something, tweak some things, modify some things and get her more mentally prepared.”
Evans feels strongly about keeping the training/racing load on Davis light because of her age: “I don’t want to overrun her because I’ve always believed in the athlete having something left if they decide to go to college or to go to the pros, because I see so many athletes getting maxed out pretty bad through their club programs or their high school programs.”
With her school season over, the rest of the campaign will be tightly focused: Golden South, New Balance Outdoor Nationals, and USATF Junior Olympics. Evans says she’s been asked to compete at USATF Junior Nationals, but since she is too young to be on the U.S. team for the World Juniors, she probably won’t.
Even so, she is No. 2 on the world Junior list this season, after one Sydney McLaughlin. She’s also now the No. 3 high schooler ever, trailing only former Athletes Of The Year Allyson Felix (22.11A) and Candace Hill (22.43).
Davis is having fun with the entire experience, and says she is glad that her coach is taking things slowly. “He wants the best for me so I’m listening to him every move we make,” she says.
On the boys’ side of the meet, speed was also the highlight with Anthony Schwartz (American Heritage, Plantation) scoring a 10.07w/20.41w. The 100 time (aided by a 2.5mps wind) moved him to =No. 6 ever on the all-conditions all-time national list.