Madeleine Davison's senior track season was guaranteed to be one of a kind no matter the final results.
The Syracuse signee made certain recently that her 2016 efforts would be remembered not just for how she scheduled her meets. Running in her final race as an unattached high schooler at the Swarthmore Final Qualifier, Davison worked within the lead pack before pushing it alone, finishing first in her debut 5,000 meters on the track in a US#2 time of 16 minutes, 34.86 seconds.
"(That) race was initially pretty intimidating since I had never done a 5K on the track before, but I met another girl on the start line who said she had never run a 5K either," Davison said of the 12.5-lapper on May 16. "Knowing I wasn't the only newbie in the crowd made me feel a lot better.
"For the first eight or so laps of the race, I ran steady 80s and 81s behind a small pack of women that eventually dwindled down to just one other runner. Our first two 1,600 splits were 5:21 and 5:24, which was challenging but not exhausting. I was feeling really good with about 1,200 to go, so somewhere between the 3,800 and 4,000 marks, I passed the girl in front of me."
The opening pace set by the predominantly Division III field was well within Davison's comfort zone. Her final 1,600 came and went in approximately 5:09, with the final two laps covered in 2:28.
"I was extremely surprised with my result because the main goal in that race, other than simply gaining experience in the 5K, was to break17:00," said Pennsylvania's champion in 2015 at 3,000 indoors and 3,200 outdoors. "I wasn't even 100 percent sure I could do that, since most of my training this year was geared toward the 1500. I had done lots of 200s and very few mile or 1K repeats."
With several family obligations in coming weeks, Davison was forced to call it a year just a few days before she otherwise would have been lining up for a shot at Shippensburg.
"Part of me is disappointed that my season is ending so early because I would have liked another chance to run in some post-season meets," she said. "But this season has been a huge blessing, and I am so delighted with how it worked out. I ran a 4:26 for the 1,500 at (Hillsdale College's) Gina Relays, which, if you convert it to a mile, essentially ties a very tough PR that I hadn't come close to beating since I set it at the end of sophomore year.
"And my first 5K on the track was better than I ever could have imagined. So while I have moments of regret, I feel very satisfied with the races I did get to run this year. And I have so much to be excited for!"
Davison's outdoor season kicked off early with a solid double at the Elizabethtown Early Bird Opener and included a healthy dose of 1,500s against quality competition, including major college and post-collegiate runners. Her final prep campaign came on the heels of a cross-country season that included a return trip to the Foot Locker Nationals after a victorious finish in the Northeast regional race at historic Van Cortlandt Park.
"Honestly, I think this spring track season was about as good as it could have been," she said. "These past two meets, Gina Relays and Swarthmore, really confirmed for me that I made the right choice when I decided to run unattached. My coach, Sam Bair, and my parents deserve all the credit for making this year possible. I couldn't have done it without any of them, and they all made substantial sacrifices for me, so I am immensely grateful to them for all of their help and guidance."
In addition to competing in a half dozen college meets, Davison also piled up another semester in the college classroom at the University of Pittsburgh.
"My time at Pitt was absolutely amazing," she said. "I loved my classes, and I met some fascinating people, both students and professors. I also started to get the hang of college classes and the general concept of balancing physical class attendance, something I never had to deal with before, with workouts and meets.
"While I was only taking 9-10 credits per semester instead of the usual 15-18 for college freshmen, and even though I was still living at home and wasn't traveling as much as most college runners, I feel as though this year was an important intermediate step between homeschooling and college, both academically and athletically."