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Davis: ‘Definitely happy with what I achieved’ | Sports


EUGENE, Ore. — Jon Davis might have run himself out of a job.

He is not going to the World Championships … but might not be going to that auditing position, after all.

Out of 34 events in last week’s USA Championships, no runner-up was more improbable than Davis. The sixth-year Illinois miler and Oakwood native finished second in the 1,500 meters this past Saturday at Hayward Field, showing tactics and closing speed unusual for a runner so unaccustomed to the world-class stage.

The top three in most events qualified for next month’s World Championships, also at Hayward Field, in the first worlds ever held on U.S. soil. Davis lacks the necessary time or world ranking to make Team USA, but he was not lamenting that in the immediate aftermath.

“Definitely happy with what I achieved,” he said. “Still don’t know how the world rankings system works, or if that will be anything I’d be able to get close to. Right now, I’m just happy to get second at USAs.”

Davis is 110th in the most recent rankings — 19th among Americans — and would need to be in the top 65 to have a chance. His world ranking will climb after the USA result is factored (a major meet earns more points), but not enough to qualify for World Championships.

Davis, 24, had never run in USAs and was coming off sixth place at the NCAA Championships in Eugene earlier this month. He was caught up in traffic in that one — also slow and tactical — but thrived in such a reprised scenario.

Positioning is paramount in such a closely bunched pack, and he never fell farther back than seventh. He was third with 400 meters left, sixth with 100 left. He ran the last 100 in 12.28 seconds, faster than any of the 11 other finalists.

Cooper Teare went from fourth to first in the last 100 and won in 3:45.86, covering the last 400 in 51.90. Davis was second in 3:46.01 off a 52.01 last 400. Josh Thompson was third in 3:46.07.

The race was more 100-meter dash than metric mile. With 100 meters left, the top eight were separated by 0.64 seconds. Sam Prakel, who led at 1,400 meters, finished eighth in 3:46.49.

Teare has met the 3:35 world standard, compared with Davis’ best of 3:36.85. Thompson will be the second worlds entrant off his No. 39 ranking, and the third one will be sixth-place Johnny Gregorek, who has met the 3:35.

A few weeks ago, Davis thought he was done. Because of the pandemic, he had indoor and cross-country seasons of eligibility available with the Illini, but he accepted a job with a San Francisco firm to work remotely as an auditor.

Mega-money in track and field is rare, but there is some for a miler of Davis’ resume: fast times, closing speed and now this.

“Open to anything,” Davis said. “We’re going to explore options and go through the process. First and foremost, I’m going to try to take this all in.”

Davis is paradoxical in that he has been both young prodigy and late bloomer. The News-Gazette’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2016 won six Class 1A state track titles at Oakwood and ran a 4:05.29 mile in high school. He also won three state cross-country titles with the Comets.

He never had much of a college track resume until winning last year’s Big Ten 1,500 in Champaign. He won this year’s Big Ten indoor mile, was fourth in indoor NCAAs and second in last month’s Big Ten 1,500.

Davis conceded he had “consistency issues” and aimed to “raise the floor” of what he could do on his worst day. He improved in running rounds, a key component of championship racing.

Davis had a succession of fast times in prelims: Big Ten indoor mile (3:58.72, second); NCAA indoor mile (3:57.04, first); Big Ten 1,500 (3:44.22, first); NCAA 1,500 (3:37.39, first); USA 1,500 (3:39.02, fifth).

He said Illini distance coaches Sarah Haveman and Nolan Fife helped him be more mentally prepared before races.

“I think we’ve got that down pretty well,” he said.

Davis added to what has been a rich legacy of Illini milers at Hayward Field, a cathedral of the sport. Mike Durkin made Olympic teams in the 1,500 in 1976 and 1980, and Marko Koers ran to the NCAA title here in 1996.

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