Dec. 22, 2004
by Andre Bayard
Like the legends say, every island has a hidden treasure -- it is just a matter of finding it.
Washington has found its treasure, and it wasn't gold, or diamonds -- instead, it was senior sprinters Davaon Spence and Patrick Davidson.
Washington's coaches unearthed the two gems in Kingston, Jamaica, where both Spence and Davidson had established themselves as rising stars in the international track community.
Between Spence's personal bests of 10.34 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 21.20 seconds in the 200 meters, and Davidson's bests of 10.50 seconds and 21.50 seconds in the same events, the two represented a substantial booty for the Husky team.
Prior to high school, however, neither had ever even considered a career in track, with Spence focusing on cricket, and Davidson establishing himself in soccer, two of the island's most popular sports. The rising popularity of track and field in Jamaica, however, prompted both to take the speed honed by running down the cricket and soccer balls, and focus it instead on the track.
Despite terrific prep careers for both, the two did not meet until the summer before their respective senior years, when they were paired together as roommates at a summer track camp for athletes selected to compete at the National High School Championships. Not two months later, Davidson transferred to Spence's St. Jago High School in Kingston, and the magic happened.
"That's where it all started," says Davidson.
Spence and Davidson established themselves among the fastest junior-age athletes in the world, and were invited to compete in the 4x100-meter relay for Jamaica at the 1999 World Youth Championships. With Spence anchoring the team, the Jamaicans won the gold medal in record-setting time, putting the two on the fast track to success.
"That was after only a year of running track," Spence says. "It was fun to see all of those accomplishments after just one year of competing. To be that far at that age was very motivating. Looking back on it now, it still motivates us to go farther, because we know we have been to that level before."
Spence and Davidson know a little bit about competing at a different level -- in Jamaica, track meets were a community event, with nearly the entire island turning out to watch the nation's fastest preps.
"At our high school championship, I remember having 35,000 people there. That is basically an Olympic crowd," Spence recalls. "The marching band was even out there, and when a runner reached the finish line, the whole stadium ran down to the field."
The two faced an adjustment when they arrived at separate junior colleges in the U.S., where crowds of 35,000-plus are rarely seen for anything other than football and basketball, and the largest collegiate track facilities hold just 10,000 spectators.
After two years each at junior colleges -- Spence in Oregon and Davidson in Texas -- the duo reunited at Washington, with visions of turning Dempsey Indoor into one of the hottest spots north of their island home. Injuries, however, limited both throughout the 2004 season, forcing Spence out of action in early April, and leaving Davidson at little more than half-speed by the end of the year. For two who had arrived with such high expectations for themselves, the early struggles to stay on the track were difficult.
"This year is totally different," Spence says. "Trust me, there will be some good things this year. I guarantee it."
Both say they are in the best condition they have been since leaving Jamaica three years ago, both physically and mentally.
"We are a lot happier right now," Spence says.
Davidson agrees: "We just love it here. To do anything at a high level, you've got to love it, and we are loving it right now. It feels just like Jamaica in here."
When it comes down to it, representing Jamaica is what Spence and Davidson are all about, and their goals reflect that fact. The World Championships next year? All for Jamaica. The Goodwill Games? Do it for Jamaica. The 2008 Olympics? Jamaica.
"We are straight Jamaica," Spence says, as Davidson nods his agreement. "We always bring, green, gold, and black."
Washington found it's treasure, and beginning in 2005, it's going to start spreading the loot.