This weekend, George Ranch senior Katia Davis will compete in both the 1600m and the 3200m at the Region 3-6A championship track and field meet.
Davis is going through the process of what so many UIL track and field athletes are going through this weekend. Those who were good enough or lucky enough to have qualified beyond their district and area meets.
Davis will be in the company of those quality athletes -- her peers at Region 3 and throughout the entire state -- who will compete for the opportunity to advance to the state meet.
However, being on this level wasn't always the case for Davis.
It's early in the season, February 23, about the second or third week of track and field competition.
Davis placed second in the 3200m with an 11:35.80 at the Clear Falls Knight Relays.
Later that evening, she went on to place second again in the 1600m. Not only was it her second top finish, but she recorded a PR and, at the same time, broke the school record in the 3200m as well as in the 1600m with her 5:16.94. In fact, all of her teammates had also got PRs in that one race. The athletes, teammates, and coaching staff all celebrated with excitement.
While these times aren't super elite, they are respectable and still pretty good.
After the 1600m race, I interviewed Davis. I asked her how it felt to PR and break the school record so early in the season.
"It feels great to come so far," she said. "It wasn't that long ago that I sucked."
I was a little confused and asked her what she meant.
"I haven't been very good at running, I just got kind of good," she said. "Just the other day, my mom told me she was really proud of me because she said she remembers when I used to really suck."
I was intrigued by her journey -- so intrigued Katia and I actually talked off-camera for a while.
As she admitted to me how she once wasn't very good, and all the while I was wondering to myself how she didn't get discouraged along the way, how she had made it to today, to this PR, why she hadn't quit and tried to find something else in her life.
Davis' story is one of family origins -- looking to her mother for inspiration -- inspiring mentors, and perseverance.
I wondered when and how Davis got her start in running.
"My mother had been quite the runner in high school and in college," Davis said. "In fact, she went to state for track and cross-country multiple times and received (a) scholarship to run for the University of Houston. This was one of my inspirations and motivators to start running in order to be like my mom as a runner. Then, growing up, I was never an athlete and struggled to have the motivation to run. In 6th grade, my parents had decided to try to teach me to become healthier, so that included running. I remember the first time I tried to work out . . . I could barely run for two minutes.
"Despite that tragic workout, I was determined to make something of myself as a runner. However, I truly believe that my love for running grew in 8th grade with the start of cross country. My coach at the time, coach Fairhurst, helped me create a solid foundation for myself while making the sport fun."
"From the beginning, I knew I was neither the fastest on the team nor the best," Davis said. "It wasn't [until] this year that I became one of the top dogs of the team. I slowly came from being lapped by other girls and placing last in races to eventually placing and even winning some races -- which only really started consistently happening this year, my senior year."
A lot of the superstars we have in our sport work hard. They put in the long hours and make sacrifices to be elite.
However, right there with those elite boys and girls are their teammates who may not be elite or as good as they are. These athletes get up early and stay up late sometimes just as much as the elite. They eat right, sacrifice parts of their summer, winter, and spring vacations to put in the work to for the sport they chose to compete in and love.
Many of them are trying harder than many can ever realize. Their results are still viewed as "just average." Many of these young adults have their whole lives centered around the sport, and even through all of the sacrifices, they're still just average.
How do they fight off frustration? How do they not give in and quit a sport that they have become to love that at times might seem as though it doesn't love them back?
"On multiple occasions, I have been discouraged," Davis admitted. "But that now only fuels my drive to achieve my goals and to do better next time. However, it was hard from the start, because my first ever track meet in the 7th grade was where I was lapped multiple times and came in dead last. After that first race, I questioned whether or not I would amount to anything as a runner and everyone was expecting me to quit any moment. Despite being hard on myself, I shook off the doubt and the negativity, and I pushed myself even harder to prove everyone wrong."
-Encouragement and Motivation-
"Coming into running for the team, I had to be realistic with myself, because I knew that I wasn't naturally athletic," Davis said. "That still didn't stop me from pushing myself to the limits, because I knew that not everyone can be a state qualifier, nor can I always be the fastest. Throughout the years, I have to come to realize what matters the most is to focus on one's own personal goals and to be happy with how far you've come.
"Throughout the years, my parents are one of my biggest motivators since they support me in everything I do. They are at almost every track or cross country meet cheering me on during my race with encouragements or shouting my times. After each race, I can always count on my dad to be there with a joke or pride-filled statement and my mom with my times and big smile on her face. In addition, my team and coach are there to help guide and motivate me through my journey even if I'm having a bad day. Lastly, I run for the little kid in me that thought she wouldn't make it far as a runner, nor would she have thought she would defy people's expectations."
Success can be measured by more than just crossing the line first, running a certain time, jumping or throwing so far or high.
It's been said that success is much more a product of determination and perseverance.
Watching coaches and athletes in cross country and track and field, you begin to witness that determination and perseverance. Success is a direct result of fortitude and what many coaches refer to as "stick-to-it-iveness." No matter how long it takes and no matter what it takes, hanging in there until you get what you want and have worked so hard for. Success is an attitude!
"Becoming a school record holder, I honestly didn't realize until 100 meters left of the race that I could break it," Davis said. "My teammate was screaming at the 100-meter mark that I was going to break it at the rate I was going. After that race and even today, it still feels surreal to me that I've come so far to the point that I have a school record. Before that day, I never would have thought that I was even close to breaking it.
"The records would have to be at least top-three in my life accomplishments. The reason being is that, to come from not being able to run for two minutes in the 6th grade to holding a record for the school, I take a lot of pride in all the hard work that I've put in which has finally paid off."
Coming from being lapped in her first race to being a school record holder, that still doesn't mean that Davis has made it to what many define success in our sport to be. To some, winning state and going to college on a scholarship to a big-time university to compete in track and field and cross country is the true definitely of success.
That is not the case for every athlete competing in high school sports. Many times, football and basketball players at our schools eventually deal with the fact that they have put on the pads or a jersey for the last competitive time in their life. For some, there is no college ball.
Running is no different. Many of the athletes are running, jumping, vaulting, and throwing for the love of the sport and competition.
Davis has trained and competed over the last year or so knowing that she was not going to be a collegiate runner. Nevertheless, she still prepared, sacrificed, and competed in the sport she loves.
"My goal is to finish out the year with a bang as this is my last year, so this just gives me more motivation to let this year end on a high note and let it be the best," Davis said. She is going to college at the University of Texas. "Even though I'm not going to run for UT, I still have a passion for running, so I still have that inner drive to push myself even more and to just continue setting even more goals.
"Whether it be at practice or meets, I always I had some sort of goal in mind to push myself. More specifically, I started to become even better by not being afraid to run with the top runner of the school at the time. I had set goals each practice to try and stay with her for a certain amount of reps or for so many miles. I became unafraid to run with her and managed to stay up with her which led me to where I am today. Now, together, we are either pushing each other at practice or trying to out beat the other in races."
Davis will take the lessons being a student-athlete has taught her and apply them to the rest of her life.
"Without being a student-athlete, I don't think I would have as strong of a set determination to goals," she said. "In addition, I've learned how to better prioritize my responsibilities due to having to learn how to juggle social life, my athletics, school, and eventually even my job."