Keeping Track of... Erin Davis
By Alison Wade

Erin Davis competes at the 2001 Penn Relays.
(New York Road Runners)

As a Saratoga Springs High School freshman in 1993, Erin Davis became the youngest runner ever to win the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. She returned to the national finals twice more, finishing fourth as a sophomore in 1994 and seventh as a senior in 1996. She earned a scholarship to Penn State University and graduated in December 2001 with a degree in Recreation and Park Management. What have you been up to since you graduated in December 2001?
Erin Davis: I took time to settle back at home, think it over and do things I enjoy, like downhill skiing. I ski instructed at Gore Mountain and worked as a fitness instructor at the YMCA. I also traveled back to Penn State to live there for summer (2002) as a last chance to hang out with my friends before we all went our separate ways in the real world. Now I am back at home in Saratoga and will start working as a sales rep. for Nabisco.

FW: What kinds of responsibilities will you have at work?
ED: When I start (this Monday actually), I will have to learn to get up much earlier that I have been! The hours are early. I'll have to resume to a more disciplined lifestyle.

FW: How much running are you doing these days?
ED: It has been very inconsistent. I run because I enjoy running. Some days I will run for over an hour. Running has been painful lately. My joints become very sore from years of running hard. I just run very easy now. No track workouts... I don't miss the track. During ski season last year I did not run at all. I stay in shape by working out on the elliptical trainer or even walking when running is too painful.

FW: Do you envision yourself ever trying competitive running again?
ED: I like to envision myself running well in road races again some day. I'm taking a mental break and focusing on other areas of my life. It's hard to train consistently when you are unsure of your goals. My main concern is having a steady job and lifestyle at the moment.

FW: How would you say your college running went, in general?
ED: It started off decently. I won my first two collegiate races my freshman year. That was a great feeling. Soon after, I hurt my lower back... it was my first major injury. It took a whole year to fully heal. The lifestyle and training was so different in college than what I was used to in high school. My life and training was so very structured in high school. [Saratoga Springs high school coaches Linda and Art Kranick] were top level coaches and I was very confident in them. I was not used to change. I ran very well my sophomore cross country season. Then I had injuries off and on throughout the rest of college. Running became a job, it was frustrating. I tried my best each race and tried to contribute to the team as much as I could, but it just wasn't the same. I didn't feel the same drive and determination as I did in high school. I felt lost and would miss my high school coaches when I felt driven to run fast again. Or, I would wish I could just experience college like a normal student during times I was not feeling the drive to train and compete like a Division I athlete.

FW: Do you know what caused your injuries?
ED: I know my first injury (the lower back) was most likely caused by a change in running shoes (from Asics since I was 12 years old to Nike). And also the change in training style. Penn State was a large campus. I was always walking around in what were probably not the greatest shoes to walk in. So I had my share of shin splints, ankle injuries, achilles tendonitis, etc. My sophomore and senior years, I actually had stress fractures in my metatarsals. I think that was due to not being prepared to run fast in spiked shoes. In high school, we raced a lot more often, so my feet were used to the racing shoes. Sudden strain on the feet in flimsy shoes is not good. I had terrible foot trouble through most of college.

FW: There was a coaching switch while you were at Penn State, how did that affect you?
ED: Both coaches were great people with similar training style, but a different approach. They had different personalities. Coach (Teri) Jordan was the coach who recruited me, she had known me since high school and she was good friends with my high school coaches. I was sad when she left, but I trusted Coach (Beth) Sullivan taking over because she was coming from Stanford, a top running program. She seemed very organized and driven to take our team to where we wanted to be. I still was not used to the change of coaching. I never had a change in high school. I had been confident in knowing what to expect every day of training and racing from 7th through 12th grade. I missed the structure and consistency I had in high school.

FW: How was your overall experience at Penn State?
ED: It had its ups and downs, with running and school. The social life was great. [It's a] large university, there are so many people from so many different backgrounds. I made a lot of great friends that I will never forget. I would have liked to have had a year to experience it as a normal student and focus on what I might have really wanted to do with my future. My only goal while I was there, besides running at my best effort, was to graduate. I went to college not knowing what I wanted to really study. I studied recreation and park management in hopes of working at a major resort. Here I am today wanting to work in sales and continue ski instructing.

FW: You did some of your best running very early on in your running career. Was it difficult being compared to, or comparing yourself to those performances later on in your career?
ED: I have no [regrets about] running fast that young. I was the first 9th grader to ever win a National Championship and still have some records that have not been broken that I set when I was 14 and 15. I felt the intuition to use my talent to the fullest back then, maybe I subconsciously knew I needed to use my talent at that time knowing later in life I would slow down? I don't know, I have no regret. There is always pressure at whatever level you run at, whether it's from yourself, your competition, fans, or coaches. The top athletes in the world are never satisfied, they are always striving for better and dreaming. When I was running my best times ever about nine years ago, you can bet I wasn't satisfied! I had high goals for the future, but you can't always control what barriers you have to cross. I just try to readjust my goals with each turn in the road of life, which is not always in my control. I try to live it as stress free as possible when it comes to running, which is just a sport or form of exercise. Now I use running to relieve stress, not create it.

FW: There are a handful of very young girls in this country running very well at a young age, what kind of advice would you give them, having gone through this yourself?
Remember, its a sport. Run for yourself, not others. Even when running on a team, there are other ways to contribute if you aren't having a good day. Some of my favorite teammates were not always the best runners, some never even competed. They brought encouragement and team spirit to the team. I tried to keep running as fun and enjoyable as possible. Feeling overwhelmed and stressed out at a young age is a huge red flag, a caution sign. Burnout is no fun.

FW: This may tie in to the last question, but is there anything you wish you had done differently during your competitive running career?
ED: Like what I said, I wish when I was having bad days (even months) of running, that I would not have let burn out get to me. I learned how to relax and readjust my goals during the times I was injured. Sometimes, an injury is a much-needed break. I wish I would have stayed in touch with my high school coaches and tied their training skills and advice with my college coach's. I believe I would have stayed more focused and motivated to run well if I had done that.

FW: How did you train during high school?
ED: High school mileage was around 40-50 with no added cross training (unless we had other hobbies like rollerblading and skiing that we'd sneak in), and very minimal weight training. We did pushups and situps and a lot of form running and stretching. The workouts were very structured and Mr. Kranick took each individual runner on the team's best racing times and based our workouts off our racing, so nobody was ever overdoing it. He was a very smart coach.

FW: Do you still follow what's going on in the sport? Are you a fan?
ED: Of course -- not as often though, but I'll check up on the Saratoga High School team all the time. Some of my old teammates' younger sisters that were just little kids when I was on the team are now varsity runners... It's amazing. I always check the Penn State web page to see how my college teammates are doing. I recently wanted to see what my old friend/competitor, Julia Stamps, was up to and found an article on this web site. I'll always be interested in the sport, I just feel like I don't know who the stars of the sport these days are anymore.

FW: Since you're living in Saratoga, have you spent any time around the current Saratoga team? What do you think of the current crop of runners and why do you think the program has been so successful over the years?
ED: As long as I can remember, Saratoga has always had a top-notch running team. The kids, coaches, and parents dedicate so much time and heart. The Kranicks dedicate their lives to those kids. They will always be successful because of the dedication, support, and tradition of having one of the best teams. If I was more into running these days, and could actually keep up with those girls, I would like to spend time with the team. I haven't gone to any practices or races. I feel bad, but I'll always be a part of that team. Hopefully when I get my life structured and under control, I can find time to maybe help out with the team in some way.

FW: How big of a part do you envision running having in your life in the future? What other kinds of things do you see yourself focusing on and what kinds of dreams/goals do you have?
ED: For now I'll just take it one year at a time. I have people wanting to coach me to get back in the running scene again, but I'm not ready yet. I don't even know if I'll ever want to train for competition again, but who knows, my moods these days change like the weather. My dreams will let me know if and when I'm ready to race again.

(Interview conducted October 26, 2002, Posted November 1, 2002)

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