Confidence makes the difference for Kevona Davis
When Kevona Davis takes to the track in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday at the NCAA Division 1 Championships, she will be riding a wave. Now 20 and a second-year student-athlete at the University of Texas, Davis will enter as a potential finalist in both the 100 and 200 metres. According to her coaches past and present, the recent surge in her performances is underpinned by confidence.
Asked to evaluate the form that saw Davis zoom to personal best times of 10.95 and 22.26 seconds at the recent Big 12 Conference Championships, Edwin Allen High School head coach Michael Dyke replied: “I know from many years ago that Kevona would have been someone who I anticipate would have made it to the highest level in track and field, but after leaving us, I realise she had somewhat of a mental issue, so her confidence level seemed to drop considerably.”
Dyke, who coached her to brilliant ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships sprint doubles in Class Three and Class Two and a World Under-18 100m bronze medal, recalled a talk with her late in April. “I had to spend some time encouraging her and motivating her because she felt like she wasn’t making progress despite working so hard,” he said.
“So I explained to her that she has to exercise more patience because it is not like preparing for high school where you start in January and you’re running fast and then you go down for Champs. So she has to go two-fold, where she has to go indoors and outdoors. So I explained all of that,” he related.
Not just maturity
In a May interview, Texas head coach Edrick Floreal struck a similar tone. Asked if her surge was down to maturity, he replied, “It’s not just maturity, it’s confidence.”
Floreal said things began to click when her St Lucian training partner Julien Alfred, the NCAA 100m favourite, reeled off a series of fast times. “She trains with Julien, and they’re neck to neck. She began to think, wait a minute, her training is the same as my training. Her coach is the same as my coach. She’s doing this so it means my training also equals these times,” he reflected.
He added: “One day she said to me, ‘You know what, coach? I’m just going to do what you say’ and then when she crossed the line, you saw that reaction was like, what, and then once she did it one time, now you’re awake. You realise your potential, and at that point, the chains holding you back are no longer there.”
Floreal’s encouragement and patience bore fruit at the Big 12 Conference meet and at the West Regionals qualifier, where Davis advanced to the NCAA Division 1 with times of 11.04 and 22.49 over 100m and 200m, respectively, last month in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Relieved after the 10.95, Davis told the coach, “I understand what you want from me now.”