Owls' Davis on course for success Cross country:

Westminster's Josh Davis showed flashes of talent as a freshman and sophomore. But he's sharpened his focus even more as a junior, and it's paying off.

November 01, 1998|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Josh Davis made an impact on the Westminster cross country team from the moment he began running with the varsity as a freshman two years ago. He finished third in the Carroll County championship and his eighth-place finishes in the region and state meets helped Westminster win both.

Davis continued to grow last year, taking fourth in the county, third in the region and sixth in the state as the Owls swept the three races -- including their second straight Class 4A state title. But despite finding all that success, Davis' plate was full away from the sport, and the junior needed to decide how important running would be to him this season.

Westminster coach Dave Cox saw quickly that Davis moved running higher up on his list, and the junior has been an even bigger force as the top-ranked Owls go for a third straight state title.

"I think he's made running a little more of a priority this season," said Cox. "He sees it as a necessity to get to practice and help the team in each meet."

Davis has brought running more sharply into focus this season. Nothing shows that more clearly than his performance in Thursday's county meet at Western Maryland College. Davis finished third in the race, behind teammates Jason Santucci (first) and Jesse O'Connell, just five days after being hospitalized for a problem with headaches he suffered during and after the Central Maryland Conference race.

After a fifth-place finish in the CMC race, Davis suffered through several tests, including a spinal tap, but rebounded with a solid run that left him just nine seconds behind defending state champion Santucci.

"He's really focused on running this year, that's the thing," said Santucci. "Josh is right there beside me when we're doing extra work."

Davis is active with musical activities, sometimes missing workouts because the two areas clashed. Santucci said no one was ever upset with Davis, but they like to see how he's devoted himself to running this year.

The results have shown on the course, where his times have improved at least 30 seconds over last year. Davis enjoys his success and is pointing toward this week's region meet and the state meet next week.

"I'm focusing more and learning how to run strategically in a race," said Davis. "I think just concentrating on each individual race, working hard in practice for the race, spending more time with mental and physical preparation [has helped]. I'm trying to take better care of myself."

Davis also has been successful in outdoor track, where he's one of the area's most versatile runners. In cross country, he'd likely be No. 1 on any team and was good enough to be near that level even as a freshman. But he's been fortunate to run behind Greg Fisher and Santucci, whose skills have helped him develop at a more comfortable pace and with less pressure.

Fisher was the team's No. 1 runner in 1996 -- The Sun's Runner of the Year in Carroll County -- and Santucci took over that spot last year. The 1-2 punch of Santucci and Fisher made the Owls impossible to beat last fall.

Santucci was the All-Metro Runner of the Year with Fisher next and Davis not far behind. This year, Davis has pulled closer to Santucci, even beating him in one home meet. The success of O'Connell gives Westminster three of the area's top runners and makes the Owls a favorite to take a third straight state title.

Just thinking of how far Davis could develop if running stays this much of a priority left South Carroll coach Rob Pennington shaking his head.

"It's his turn next year," said Pennington. "He can be as good as he wants to be."

Pub Date: 11/01/98

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