tampabay.com

No one's laughing now

Holy Names' Davis has come a long way from the green athlete confounded by hurdles.

By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published April 14, 2005


TAMPA - Mallory Davis remembers that first jump oh so well. How could she not?

On her initial attempt at the hurdles, she sprinted toward the barrier, and not quite knowing what to do, came to a halt before jumping straight up and over. In the background, her coach couldn't help but giggle. Davis, then an Academy of the Holy Names freshman who was talked into joining the squad by a friend, was just glad not to flop. "I was so scared," she said.

Today, she has no such troubles. A five-event standout, the senior is among the area's top all-around track and field performers. And, four seasons after that embarrassing first day, the 100-meter hurdles just happens to be Davis' best event. At this afternoon's Class 2A, District 10 meet at Newsome, she will attempt to advance to regionals in the 100 and 300 hurdles, 4x100 relay, long jump and triple jump.

"She's very talented," said Holy Names coach Pamela Legg, Davis' coach throughout high school. "She could go (to state) in four of five events."

Davis' success wasn't easily attained.

When learning the ropes, Davis and Legg, admittedly more of a distance coach, eagerly sought the help of others. Coaches at other schools pointed them in the right direction and both researched the hurdles on the Web. What Davis lacked in hurdles knowledge, she made up for with superior athleticism, the product of years on cheerleading and dance squads.

It took her the better part of her first year to get a handle on things, but by season's end she had qualified for state. More success followed. As a sophomore she was fourth at the 2A meet in the 100 hurdles (15.76 seconds), and last year she was ninth while also qualifying in the long jump and triple jump.

"State wasn't her best event (last year)," Legg said. "I don't really know why, but she's really out to medal. She really wants it."

Legg enters the final stages of high school with school records in both hurdle events. She has no plans to compete in college, and instead wants to embark on a cheerleading career at Florida State. As the end approaches, she hopes to exit on top. And what a turnaround that would be given the way she entered.

"This is it," Davis said. "I want to go out good, not with people saying, "She could have been a great hurdler."'