By Tommy Keeler Jr.
QUICKSBURG -- Ashton Davis had already been successful at track and field, but when she decided to go out for the cross country team this season for the first time she had no idea what to expect.
The Stonewall Jackson junior had never run a mile before, let alone three miles. Davis said she didn't think she would be one of the Generals' standouts, but managed to even surprise herself.
Davis was able to keep up with Stonewall runner Cristy Luna at one of the preseason practices and realized she could be successful at the sport.
"I was trying to stay up with Cristy Luna, she is very good, and I realized that I could stay up with her," Davis said. "And it was a complete shock to me because I thought I was going to be really slow. Then my times kept getting better and better, and I was like, 'Wow, I could actually do some work here.'"
David did plenty of work this season and finished fourth in the Group A cross country meet.
Davis, who finished fourth in the 800-meter run last year in the Group A state track meet, decided to go out for cross country because her friend and teammate Kortni Beeson wanted her to.
"She's like, 'You got to run cross country with me, it will be fun,' and so I did," Davis said.
Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan knew Davis had some potential, especially when she ran in the top 15 at a jamboree in Danville in August.
"We said we have something special," Clanahan said. "OK, she either doesn't know what she's got or we've got a gem here."
Davis, The Northern Virginia Daily's 2012 Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, continued to shine throughout the season. She ran a 5:58 mile one day in practice early in the district season and realized she had potential to have a great season.
She ran a 20:52 in the Shenandoah District meet in Fishersville, which was good enough for second place.
While she did very well in the district meet, the Region B meet brought on a different challenge.
The meet was held at Panorama Farms, a course with quite a few hills, which Davis said she isn't as fond of. She struggled on the course, but still finished 15th to just barely qualify for the state meet.
Clanahan said they decided the best way to prepare for the state meet was to change things up a little bit.
"We worked on the bike, we took her off the road," Clanahan said. "And Jeremiah Hines, a senior this year, came in a couple days and ran with her to keep her pace turnover quick, and it paid off."
Clanahan said they also assured Davis that she could beat a lot of the top competition, because many of them she had beaten before in other races during the season.
Davis ran a 20:02 at the Group A state meet at Great Meadow in her first cross country state meet experience.
Another thing that helped Davis do well at the state meet was her desire to do her best.
"I think the competitiveness is within," Clanahan said. "And once it gets out there, you don't see it in her face. You see this calmness over her, and it's just the beast within that comes out and it does it. It's a neat thing to watch her."
Davis said for her it's not about medals, it's simply about wanting to do her best. That's what drove her to have such a strong state meet.
"I expect a lot of myself, and that's the only thing that disappoints me if I don't do good," Davis said. "It's just nice to prove to myself that I can do something good.
"I just wanted to good for my team. I wanted to prove that I could do it."
Davis said she took up running in track her freshman year, because she wanted to take up a sport and things just clicked for her.
Three years later, Davis said she still loves the thrill of running.
"It's exciting," Davis said. "For cross country, it's time to think. You can kind of process things and actually think about your form. You can think about what you're doing. With track it's exciting, like your adrenaline's rushing. And that's how it is in cross country, too, when you hear the gun and you're like, 'I've got to get out in front of all these girls,' because it's such a big pack and you want to get out in front."
While she enjoyed her cross country season, Davis said she still likes track better and she's already excited about the upcoming season.
Davis said her main goal each season is just to keep getting better and reach her full potential.
Clanahan knows the sky's the limit with Davis and said she's very happy Davis decided to give cross country a try.
"She's just a gem," Clanahan said. "It's just one of those things -- a diamond in the rough and the rough happens to be [Stonewall Jackson High School]."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org