Almost by chance, Kiana Davis started running in the fifth grade at Lakeside Academy elementary school and she hasn’t slowed down since.
In fact, Davis has only gotten faster.
Davis’ steady progress over the years at Ooltewah High School and with the summer AAU Chattanooga Jets has propelled the Lady Owls’ senior to a college track scholarship with East Tennessee State University.
Davis will conclude her prep career at the 2015 Spring Fling state meet at Middle Tennessee State University and has mixed emotions about the upcoming week.
“I’m really excited, but it’s going to be bittersweet,” Davis said at Thursday’s signing ceremony in the Little Theater at Ooltewah High School.
“It’s going to be my last high school track meet. I’m going to savor the moment, but still be in tune with the races and how much they’ll mean to me.
“But it has been my goal for a long time to run track in college. Thank God, it’s going to come true.”
Davis will join coach George Watts’ ETSU women’s track squad and looks forward to working closely with Bucs sprint coach Hassaan Stamps, who in 2012 served as head coach of the Saudi Arabian national team for the World Junior Championships and at the London Olympic Games.
“ETSU wants me to run the 200 and 400 meter races and that’s fine with me,” the 18-year-old Davis said. “That’s because the 400 builds on to your 200. I’m pretty decent in the 400 and I believe I can be an all-around good sprinter.”
Davis also considered Memphis University, which has a solid NCAA Division I track program.
But when deciding between Memphis and ETSU, the choice became clear to Davis and she confidently chose the Southern Conference program in Johnson City, Tenn.
“I really thought ETSU would be a step down from Memphis,” Davis said, “because Memphis a big Division I school with a good name. When I visited ETSU they were offering the same things, plus a better financial package.
“Plus, on my visit up there coach Stamps and I just clicked. He has a great personality and really knows what he’s talking about.”
The running started in the fifth grade at Lakeside Academy. Davis’ father, Hayes Davis, recalled that a front-tier Lakeside runner was unable to run in a county track meet and Davis was tabbed to take her place.
“Kiana stepped in and won the race,” he said.
She was off and running.
“That’s when we found out she could run,” said Amy Davis, Kiana’s mother.
Davis finished off her junior year by placing fifth in the 100- and 200-meter sprints at the state meet, scoring eight of Ooltewah’s 12 points in the girls’ division. The Lady Owls finished in 20th place.
Davis turned in solid times of 12.28 seconds in the 100 and 25.17 in the 200.
At the 2015 sectional, Davis proved her hard work was paying off on the track by winning both of those events with personal-best times of 12.10 seconds in the 100 and a milestone 24.86 in the 200, the first time she went below 25 seconds in her career.
“I think without a doubt she’s going to be among the top three sprinters at the state meet,” Ooltewah track coach Donnie Mullins said. “Kiana is also going to run the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay.”
Said Davis, “I think the gap has closed with my times last year and what I’ll need to improve my finishes next week at state. I believe I’m going to be in the top three because everyone that beat me last year were seniors and they’re gone. This time it’s going to be Mia McCoy, Janelle Pate and me.”
And Davis has never been one to set her goals low.
In looking ahead to her potential impact on this year’s sprint races at MTSU, Davis has a clear picture of what she wants to accomplish while closing out her prep career.
“The goal is to win and hopefully we can win all three events,” said Davis, who considers the 200 her specialty event.
Davis feels strongly that Davis’ collegiate future is bright and she has an opportunity to register superlative results at ETSU.
“Knowing ETSU and the facilities they have up there, the sky is the limit for Kiana, simply because she wants to be really good and she’s committed to working hard to make that happen,” Mullins said.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)