Arguably the top girl distance runner returning in Pennsylvania, Madeleine Davison will skip the 2015-16 PIAA seasons, electing to run unattached in cross country and track as she plans to expand her already extensive academic record.
A rising homeschooled senior, Davison won the state indoor 3,000- and outdoor 3,200-meter titles for North Allegheny in 2015 after a top 3 PIAA finish and Foot Locker Finalist effort in cross country. She informed NA head coach John Neff and her former teammates Monday morning of her decision to focus on a nearly full-time schedule of fall classes at the University of Pittsburgh instead of running for the Tigers.
“This was a very difficult decision, and one that I spent a lot of time mulling over along with my parents,” Davison said. “I know that I am going to miss the girls on the team. I have so many fond memories of bus-ride shenanigans and late-night conversations with them over the years.
“And of course, I would love to have one more chance to compete at the WPIAL and state meets with all of the amazing girls from Pennsylvania, but I really believe that this is the right decision for my future and there are many aspects of this arrangement that I am really excited about.”
Davison joined the storied distance program at North Allegheny in seventh grade and has been the lead Tiger in Hershey and Shippensburg for each of the past three seasons. Neff’s girls squad will be looking for a new No. 1 once the fall campaign gets under way on September 4.
“Madeleine told us (Monday) that she will be taking the 2015-16 school year to change her academic course work by enrolling in some college classes,” Neff said. “Madeleine has come to the decision that this will not allow her to participate with our team. The coaching staff and the team wish her well.”
Last fall, Davison was third in the Class AAA final at Hershey, chasing home Shaler Area graduate, Colorado recruit and sometimes training partner Brianna Schwartz. Pennsbury’s Olivia Sargent was the runner-up and joined Davison under 18 minutes as non-seniors filled 14 of the first 18 spots.
“Training on my own and racing unattached will definitely present some challenges, especially since most of the meets we are looking at are not local,” Davison said. “I will probably have to travel for races, and I may run into conflicts with Thursday classes and Friday meets, for instance.
“As I said, I'll definitely miss seeing the NA girls every day, and I'll also miss Bri and (former North Hills standout) Mary (Malone) and all the other Pittsburgh girls I've run with when they head off to college.”
According to Melissa Mertz, associate executive director of the PIAA, student-athletes must be on a high school roster to compete in any dual meets, invitationals or district or PIAA events.
Now, Davison and her parents will need to compile a schedule of open or all-comers events that prepare her for a possible return trip to San Diego for the Foot Locker Nationals.
“We haven't finalized anything just yet, but it looks like there may be some open college races and possibly out-of-state high school races that would allow unattached runners,” she said. “Whatever happens during the season, my ultimate goal is still to compete at Foot Locker Regionals and hopefully also Nationals.”
While a high schooler competing unattached is rare, several have done very well in setting their own training and competition schedules, most notably Wesley and Ryen Frazier of North Carolina. With both sisters running unattached during their XC seasons and Ryen also unattached during her senior year in track in 2015, the two combined for three Foot Locker National appearances and Ryen matched Wesley’s distance triple (mile, 2 mile and 5K) at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor this year without running on a team.
Davison’s 9:47.93 to dominate the 3,000 at the 2015 PTFCA indoor meet finished as No. 6 nationally, while she also ranked 12th in the 1,600 undercover. Her PIAA-winning 10:27.20 in the 3,200 was tops in Pennsylvania and U.S. No. 38.
She also was the runner-up to Schwartz in the state Class AAA 1,600 in 2014, with her PR 4:47.06 just 0.11 behind Schwartz’s effort to defend her title. In addition to being a Foot Locker Finalist last December, Davison finished third in the mile at the 2014 New Balance Outdoor Nationals in a PR 4:47.07.
In looking ahead to the college recruiting process, Davison said she has made progress but has more work to do.
“I am still talking to coaches, making unofficial visits and learning more about the schools on my list,” she said. “I haven't made any decisions about official visits as yet. As for the list itself, it seems to change every day! I hope to have a clearer picture of my top choices by the end of the summer, though.”
As talented academically as athletically, Davison’s desire to continue to be challenged in her studies led to Monday’s announcement.
“Up until this year, I have had little difficulty in balancing my athletic pursuits with my academic interests,” said Davison, whose fall term at Pitt begins August 31. “Since the beginning of high school, I have taken numerous online AP (Advanced Placement) classes and other online courses to make sure that my high school education was as rigorous as possible. However, after this school year, I felt that I was ready to move on from the online classes and try something a little bit different.”