Davison making the most of limited racing opportunities as unattached athlete

It was only the second day of Pennsylvania's outdoor track season, and Madeleine Davison was preparing for her second meet of the year ... in Raleigh, N.C.

Such is the flexibility the unattached senior had in getting an early start on competing on full-size ovals.

Two weeks later, the Syracuse signee is just returning to racing.

Such are the difficulties in putting together a schedule for an unattached high school athlete.

"This season has been very different than what I am used to with a high school schedule," said Davison, who announced last summer that she would be running her senior year as an unattached athlete so she could get a jump on college-level academics. "I do enjoy having a more regular training schedule, but sometimes the long periods with no racing can get a bit dull. I think having less frequent races will probably help prepare me for college racing, though, so I think that overall it's been good for me."

Davison has taken full advantage of the limited opportunities she has had to compete against collegiate and other unattached runners that most often are unknowns to her.

However, this evening at Princeton University, Davison will see a familiar face in New Jersey's Briana Gess. Both high schoolers are listed in the fast heat of the 1,500-meter run during the Friday Night Distance Races at the Sam Howell Invitational.

Davison and Gess, a junior, both qualified for their second Foot Locker National Final last December, with the Pennsylvanian winning the Northeast Regional in New York City and Gess fifth at Van Cortlandt Park. Davison later finished one spot ahead of Gess in San Diego.

Davison opened her outdoor season on March 19 at the Elizabethtown (College) Early Bird Opener, racing a mile-800 double against mostly Division III competition.

In the mile, Davison cruised to an impressive clocking of 4:56.69 in the cold conditions. Turning around quickly after her resounding victory, Davison wound up third in the 800 in 2:17.98, with the front trio separated by less than a second.

Davison shown competing at a TSTCA meet in January (Photo by Phil Grove)

"I was a little nervous when I went out to race at Elizabethtown because it had been so long since my last meet, and I felt like I had sort of forgotten how to race," Davison said of the more than month gap between an abbreviated indoor schedule and her outdoor debut. "But it was definitely nice to get back into it after such a long hiatus."

The following Friday (March 25), Davison was entered in just one race, the 1,500 at the Raleigh Relays at North Carolina State. The next-to-last heat of the metric mile was loaded with major-college talent, and the opening meters moved quickly ... and then slowed.

"Everybody sprinted out for the first 100, and since I had been planning to just put myself in the middle of the pack and hang on, I was running in lane 3 on the outside toward the middle," she said. "But when we came around the first turn and reached the 300 mark, I could see that our pace had slowed down dramatically. I had wanted to get a good time, so at that point I basically took a deep breath and launched myself into the lead because even though I knew it was not the best move strategically, I could tell that no one in the heat was interested in pushing the pace."

Davison was third after the opening 300 as the leader passed through in a sluggish 58 seconds. The high schooler remained in front after 700 in 2:11.29 and 1,100 in 3:21.16 as the front seven were separated by less than a second.

She stayed in front until about 250 meters remained.

"At that point, several people passed me who had undoubtedly been waiting to sit, and kick and because I had been working pretty hard up to that point, I didn't have the energy for a huge battle at the end," she said.

"However, seeing people run past gave me the extra boost of adrenaline I needed to run one last 69-second lap. It was a fun race because I had few expectations and virtually no pressure going in, so I felt free to take some risks without worrying about where I would finish."

Davison finished sixth in her heat with a solid time of 4:30.39, which was good for 16th in the field of 108 that included former world indoor (and PIAA) 800 champ Chanelle Price.

In between races this spring, Davison has been busy with her classes at the University of Pittsburgh.

"My second semester at Pitt has been going very well," she said. "I love my classes, and because they are all on TuesdayWednesday and Thursday, I have plenty of time for workouts and traveling to meets.

"My favorite class this semester has been American Politics, and I actually do feel more convinced than ever that I want to major in political science in addition to journalism. My professor in politics is super sarcastic and funny, and there are a lot of characters among my classmates, so I always look forward to that class."

In looking ahead to the spring and summer months, Davison is anxious to run faster.

"It's exciting and also motivating because although I'm really happy with how my race turned out (at Raleigh), I feel like I still have room for improvement as the season goes on," she said.