All photos by John Herzog unless noted
After a sensational sophomore year which concluded with a World Youth Championships title in the 110 meter hurdles followed by national record breaking indoor season as a junior, Wayne Davis of Southeast Raleigh (NC) hit his first road block last spring in the outdoor season. It turned out the superhuman phenom was actually human as an ankle injury lingered with him throughout the spring and reached a breaking point literally at the USATF Junior Nationals as the initial sprain injury ended up becoming a fracture to end his year. As a result, Davis' hopes of a returning to the World stage against the top junior hurdlers on the planet were lost.
In an exclusive interview with MileSplit US though, Davis reveals that the injury may have been a blessing in disguise as it has forced him to pace himself better and re-adjust his training for his senior year, which should set himself to be healthy and finish strong this summer. He certainly does not appear to be behind schedule as his US #1 clocking of 7.09 last weekend at the Virginia Tech Invite puts him only a hundredth of a second off his US #2 all-time performance of 7.08 from last year's meet despite having trained for a significantly less period prior compared to 2008 at this points.
The North Carolina high school track star returns to Virginia for a second straight weekend for the Lashawn Merritt Invitational on Saturday being held at the new Boo Williams Sportslex in Hampton.
MileSplit US: Congrats on your 7.09 clocking this past weekend at Tech. You had to deal with injuries last spring that hampered you, so how does it feel to be performing close to your top form from a year ago?
Wayne Davis: I feel like my injury has been a blessing because last year when I ran 7.08 I was busting my butt trying with all my might. This year, I am gauging myself and I feel like I can go a lot faster. After all, I have only been practicing for about a little over a month. I usually get 3 or 4 months of practice before I run in meets. I feel lucky to be where I am considering my lack of practice.
MileSplit US: Most hurdlers and track athletes in general come back with hopes of bettering their personal bests from a year ago, but what is the weight on your shoulders like knowing for indoors you have to better a national record that you set?
Davis: I love the pressure! I think its fun trying to better my times from last year. I have no doubt I have the ability to set the record again I just have to unleash it through making up for the training I missed. Right now my coach and I are playing with new techniques and styles and really thinking outside the box to get me as efficient and powerful as possible.
MileSplit US: Obviously an athlete of your caliber has a focus and goals of competing well beyond the state outdoor meets at the national meets, USATF Nationals, and World Junior championships. Given that late summer schedule, what is the balance like for you in obviously wanting to do well in the short term in your next upcoming indoor meet, but leaving a long term plan to insure your best performances come in mid to late summer?
Davis: Yes, I have just started training and I'm still doing off season training. Despite the good times I am putting up as opposed to last year, I am taking it very slow this year. I am actually surprised I have ran so well for the little hurdle training I have done. I am saving the peak season work for outdoor and taking my time so I have a successful season like 2007.
Photo by Mark Keenan of NCRunners.com
MileSplit US: What exactly was the injury that you were dealing with last spring and what did you learn from the experience and gain anything good out of the bad?
Davis: It first happened in indoor when I got a minor sprain doing the long jump at states. As time went on it got worse and developed into a high ankle sprain. Then it worsen more and more as I pushed myself harder to get ready for Junior World Championships In Bydgoszcz, Poland. I fractured it at the Junior Nationals, and I never finished the race. I learned to listen to my body and not to let my ambitions get in the way. I also learned that on my down time I could get stronger in areas that I needed the year before.
MileSplit US: You seem to have a great set of parents who are very supportive of your participation track & field and have also instilled a great deal of values in you. How much of an impact have your parents made on you not only in the sport and in life?
Davis: Wow. Where do I begin? My parents support me in just about every reasonable goal I have whether in sports, academics, or other activities. My parents saw my athletic ability and put money into me traveling, because the money they pay for me to travel and get noticed will never compare to what they would have to pay for college. My parents always taught me that dedication and desire for something will lead to success and thats what I've been doing all my life. My parents are always there to support me and when I see kids who never have parents to support them at the track I feel very lucky that they care. I will never take their care for granted after I've seen how good I have it. I may not always agree with their decisions for me, but in the end they just want the best for me and I love then for that.
MileSplit US: You recently committed to attend Texas A&M. What made you decide to become an Aggie?
Davis: Texas A&M has the full package in terms of academics, coaches, facilities, and a great team mentality. I went through looking for the best hurdle coaches in the nation who are very analytical about hurdles to a crazy amount of depth. My coach now is all about technique and power and Vince Anderson had the best teaching style that I was used to. I already know Gabby Mayo and I will have an easy meshing into the team. Plus I love Aggie the colors. Who doesn't?
MileSplit US: What is a typical training week like for you?
Monday: 200s w/ hurdles ,300s w/ hurdles, or 150s w/ hurdles
Tuesday: Hurdle work drills and more 150s or 200s
Thursday: 400 repeats about 6 sets
Friday: Hurdle work-drills
Last year I did hurdle work every day along with hills and a few 300s and 150s here and there.
MileSplit US: Outside of obviously a very tough and disciplined training regiment, what else do you think that do that has been a key to your success?
Davis: (Laughing) Youtube! I watch a lot of film on hurdlers and sprinters. I study the event like if I was in school for it. I have a notebook where I keep all my split times and improvements and technique changes. I look at the hurdlers and apply Xiang, Robles, Allen Johnson, Roger Kingdon, and Guy Drut's styles and apply their strengths to me to create a whole new animal. It takes a lot of time and effort but Its fun playing with styles and seeing what works best for you. I also film my practices and critique myself.
MileSplit US: What are your goals for the remainder of your senior season? Two summers ago you had some breakthrough performances on the World stage. How driven are you to get back to the World Juniors stage and do well there once again?
Davis: This is my last stand in high school so I will make it my best, and I am training harder than I ever have to get to my goals. I am lifting more and working on my strength. I am stronger than I have ever been and I am working to get stronger everyday. I will use what I lost last season year as motivation this year.
Goals of Wayne Davis
* 60 Hurdles: 7.50 or lower
* 55 Hurdles: anything below seven seconds
* 110 Hurdles: 12.90
* World junior title in 110 hurdles
* World junior record 13.13 by Xiang.
MileSplit US: You seem to exhibit a lot of humility at meets and come across as very personable to the average high school athletes even when asked for autographs from them. How tough is it to not get a big head from all the attention and still remain the same person before you became a well known track athlete?
Davis: I look at myself as just a normal person who is doing what they like to do, and I just happen to be good at what like. My parents help me stay down to earth. I've always been a humble yet playful person and I don't take myself seriously at all. I don't let ego get in my way. All the work I do to get to this point makes me humble, because it wasn't easy.
MileSplit US: A lot of top high school athletes skip out on the USATF Junior Nationals and some do not even realize the meet exists. A shame considering what is at stake and the fact its a legitimate national championship. If you were trying to sell or explain to someone that was good enough to go why they should go to the meet, what would you say to them?
Davis: I go there because I wanted colleges to notice me. When you are on a national stage, you can easily get your name out to college coaches. The experience of competing with the best is an experience someone should have even if they are not on top. If I raced in the Olympics or in a meet against Liu Xiang, I would lose, but I'd be happy to have the experience.