Wayne Davis II: The Record Chaser
“To express yourself, to be unique, to have a unique style, there’s no beginning and there’s no end. It’s an ongoing, never-ending journey. It’s an ocean you never will cross.” -David S. Ware
In the men’s 110 meter high hurdles, there’s a common assumption – and with good reason – that if you’re not tall enough, you can never be one of the best in the world. But 2013 NCAA champion Wayne Davis II, at 5-10 ½, has never been one to let common assumptions limit him. As a skinny little nine-year-old boy growing up in Raleigh, NC, he didn’t look like a kid who should try the hurdles, but he tried them anyway. After defying the odds and becoming an age-group champion at age 14, it seemed a good bet that his small stature would catch up to him entering high school, where the hurdles would be raised a whopping six inches, from 33 to 39. But Davis won the Nike Outdoor National Championships in June of 2007, setting a sophomore record of 13.65. He went on to have arguably the greatest high school career ever in the 110 hurdles, winning gold at the World Youth Championships in the Czech Republic in July of 2007 (over 36” hurdles), setting a new 60m hurdle record of 7.60 at the Nike Indoor National Championships in March of 2009, then capping it all off by breaking Renaldo Nehemiah’s long-standing national high school record of 12.9 (hand-timed) with a 13.08 at the Pan-Am Junior Games in his parents’ home country of Trinidad in July of 2009, after the end of senior year.
He was supposed to be too small to make the transition from high school to college. Some major programs shied away from him, despite his enormous success as a prep, believing he had already maxed out his potential. And though he did struggle early on in his career at Texas A&M, he eventually made the necessary adjustments to the big boy barriers, resulting in a 2nd-place finish at the NCAA championships in 2012, and an NCAA victory this past June. Meanwhile, in international competition, he switched allegiances from the United States to Trinidad, representing the small island country in the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 World Championships, making it to the semi-final round in both meets.
Having reached the top at the youth level, high school level, and collegiate level, the world-class level is the next frontier awaiting the young Davis, who turned 22 this past August.
“Demolishing Hurdles Like a Superhero”
Davis was born in Raleigh on August 22, 1991, two years after his parents moved from Trinidad to the US. By the age of five he already had hurdling dreams on his mind. Watching the 1996 Olympic Games that took place in Atlanta, GA, the five-year-old Davis did not know enough about track to be impressed by Michael Johnson demolishing world records in the 400 and 200 meter dashes. Instead, his imagination was captured by another Johnson – Allen Johnson, who smashed and crashed crossbars on his way to a gold medal in the 110 hurdles.
“It looked so exciting to me,” Davis said when I interviewed him in late August, shortly after the World Championships in Moscow. “It looked so fast. He was demolishing hurdles like a superhero. I said, ‘Mom, that’s what I want to do.’ If he’d run a clean race, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to hurdle. I saw him as a monster, as a beast. After that, I started setting up chairs in the house and jumping over them. If I ever got to the track, the hurdles were the first thing I’d look for.”