BY CHAD DARE
---- — PEORIA — The gameplan worked so well the first time that Oakwood/Amrstrong-Potomac sophomore Jon Davis wasn't about to make any changes.
Just like he did a week earlier in winning the Class 1A Decatur St. Teresa Sectional title, Davis positioned himself right on the hip of Champaign St. Thomas More senior Nick Hess.
With just under 800 meters in the IHSA Class 1A state cross country race at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Davis went into a full sprint, pulling away from Hess and claiming the first-ever cross country individual state title in school history.
"It was just about the same plan,'' Davis said. "We, my coach and I, came here yesterday and plotted out all of the points where I needed to kick. We went all the way back to the 800-mark, just in case and that's exactly what happened. When I got to that point, it was all of nothing for me.''
Davis said winning the individual state title, which is the third in school history and the first since Charles Lomax won the 119-pound title in the 1974 state wrestling meet, was a result of his training regime this summer and during the season.
"It was the summer months, that’s when you build a cross country runner,'' Davis said. "The ones that do really well are the ones that practice by themselves during the summer.
"That means running through the hot days, the rainy day and the cooler days that we had here at the end of the season.''
In addition to the work that Oakwood/A-P first-year coach Doug Robinson put in this season with Davis, the sophomore runner also credited a pair of former Comet runners for helping him in his development.
Justin Jones and Brandon Divan worked with him during the summer months.
"I just think that Jon is one of the best running talents that I’ve seen on this level,'' said Jones, a 2008 graduate of Oakwood High School. "I know he didn’t even run in the summer last year and he finished 26th in state.
"I was just the old guy behind the scenes keeping track the number of miles he ran and setting up his schedule. Brandon was the one that ran with him this summer as he was getting ready for his college season.''
But Jones was the one that somewhat predicted back in early August that Davis was going to have an epic season.
"Justin Jones told me that I would be peaking around this time, so I set some goals and it paid off in the end,'' Davis said. "One of my other goals was to get under 15 minutes, and today was the third time (St. Joseph-Ogden Spartan Classic and last week's sectional meet). This is my ultimate dream — to win state.''
Davis admitted that he was a little worried after the Class 1A runners ran the first mile in about 4:40.
"I didn’t know if I could keep it up,'' Davis said. "But I just stuck with Hess. He knows what he is doing, he’s been here all four years (reaching all-state honors in the past three seasons). I really thought that (Eric) Ponder of Tuscola was going to push the pace early and win the race.
"My biggest enemy is doubt. When I came past the two-mile mark, I had nothing left. My lungs were burning and my legs were reaching critical mass. I just decided it didn’t matter, I just had to pour it one last time for this year.''
And as Davis crossed the final 400 meters up to the finish line, he had only one thing on his mind.
"I didn’t want to look behind me. I just kept my eyes forward and kept pumping,'' he said. "We worked on my kick over the summer and it paid off.''
After winning the state title, Davis, who was the fastest freshman a year ago finishing 26th, pointed out he has another goal that he would like to accomplish in the next two seasons.
"Our program is going to grow in the next few years,'' he said. "I would like to take a team to sectionals and hopefully, we can get a team to state by my senior year.
"This is a once in a lifetime experience.''
Davis isn't sure if this is the end of cross country season.
"I would like to go to the NIKE Nationals,'' he said.
And if he does, you can also guarantee that he will use his gameplan from the past two weeks.