Jun. 10—Cross country was something Jordan Davis turned to on a whim.
At baseball practice, the Neshoba Central freshman heard his friend Caden Stuart say he was heading to cross country practice, and Davis said an idea formed in his head, leading him to ask Stuart if he could ride with him to cross country.
When he got there, Davis tried out and was the second-fastest runner out there despite no cross country experience. While not a total surprise — Davis is known to steal bases when he's playing baseball — he still had no cross country experience, so his tryout performance was all due to natural talent.
Months later, Davis placed 13th at the MHSAA Class 5A state meet with a time of 18:10.36, the best time on the team that day. Because of this achievement, Davis was named the Premier Preps male cross country Athlete of the Year.
"I wasn't expecting it," Davis said of the recognition. "Yesterday I was eating at Mellow Mushroom and my mom told me. It was a big shock."
Neshoba Central cross country coach Regan Kief said he remembers that first tryout, which made him realize immediately what kind of potential Davis had.
"After his first lap I was like, 'OK, this is going to be pretty good,'" Kief recalled. "Our top runner is Thomas Saunders, and anytime he ran, Jordan was right behind him. With training, I think Jordan could be our fastest runner."
Once he was practicing regularly, Davis said he noticed the improvement in his running ability, and he carried an obsession to be the best at baseball over to cross country.
"I guess you could say it's my mentality of wanting to get better," Davis said of what allowed him to progress over the course of the fall. "I worked hard to keep on getting because because I like (cross country), and anything I do I always want to be the best I can be. Every single practice, I made sure to push myself. I worked on my own sometimes, and I always have a good coach, too."
Saunders was hurt when Neshoba Central competed at the state meet, which meant there was even more pressure on Davis to perform. When Davis finished as high as he did, however, Kief said it was no surprise.
"The progression he made to the state meet was the result of a tremendous amount of work, not just in the summer but also during the competitive season," Kief said. "Some people can run that fast but (require) a tremendous amount of work to do so. He just walked up and blew the doors off of us."
Running at state wasn't the only memory that stands out to Davis. During a meet at Sebastopol, Davis remembers leading the pack at one point and having to deal with a road hazard not common during cross country runs.
"I guess someone had a dog, and this dog ran after me, and I jumped over the dog and did what looked like the Heisman pose," Davis said with a chuckle. "I thought it was going to bite me."
Whether it's swiping bases on the diamond, competing at a state meet or jumping over animals, Davis said he enjoys running.
"Most people don't like it because it's tiring, but I actually get energy from it," Davis said. "On long runs I have time to think, and when I'm running short distances I feel energized when I run."
While he's currently contemplating whether to return to cross country his sophomore year, Davis said if he does his goal is to become even better than the year before, to beat his previous times and become a smarter runner. Kief said the sky is the limit for Davis if he chooses to run cross country again.
"For colleges, when you start running in the sub 17s — which I know he's more than capable of — that's when they start looking at you," Kief said. "He could run in college. He's a natural at cross country. For him to come in as an ninth-grader and run in the 18s with no prior experience is amazing. He's still growing, so he'll become faster and develop running muscles even more."