HERALD ALL-AREA: DWS star runner Davis’ unusual path to Albany ends with top end-of-the-year honors as POY

Deerfield’s Mackenzie Davis not only broke the school’s cross country record, but she finished second in the GISA Class AAA state cross country meet.

Deerfield’s Mackenzie Davis not only broke the school’s cross country record, but she finished second in the GISA Class AAA state cross country meet.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this — not here, not now.

No, Mackenzie Davis, who emerged to become The Herald’s 2011 Player of the Year in girls cross country, was supposed to spend her senior year in Virginia, at home with her friends and teammates at Mountain View High School, where Davis was on her way to becoming the valedictorian of her class.

Instead, she found a new home at Deerfield-Windsor, where she quickly made friends and made an instant impact on the girls cross country program.

Semper fi.

That’s what happened.

The phrase, which is the heartbeat of the Marines and short for the Latin words Semper Fidelis that mean “always faithful,’’ or “always loyal” tell you everything you need to know about Davis, a marine-tough kid who knows about as much about loyalty as anyone in the corps.

Her father, Colonel Don Davis, was transferred from Virginia to the Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, and Mackenzie stuck with the family. She could have stayed in Virginia and finished her senior year.

“It was kind of rough leaving there, but I wanted to be with my family,’’ said Davis, who was one of the top distance runners in her school. “When you grow up a military kid you move a lot. The one thing that stays the same is your family. That’s the one constant. I knew I wanted to stay with my family.’’

Still, nothing was easy about leaving Mountain View High.

“It was hard. My junior year was kind of a breakout year for me. I made huge leaps,’’ she said of her emergence in running. “I knew everyone. It was tough. I went from a class of 413 (at Mountain View) to a class of about 75 (at Deerfield).’’

She bounced back from a bit of culture shock and has no regrets, leaving Virginia and just about every distance runner in GISA behind her in a season she won’t forget.

Davis not only broke the school record (19:01) set by four-time Herald Player of the Year Kelly Conway, who is now running at Clemson, but she won the region title in 18:47 and finished second in the GISA Class AAA state meet.

“She’s a special kid,’’ DWS cross country coach Cathy Jones said. “To come here her senior year like she did. At first, her parents were going to have her stay in Virginia with another family, but she told them, ‘I’m not going to stay.’ That was courageous. She didn’t know what she was getting in to.

“But she has blended in at school. It’s like she has been here all her life. The way she just came here and fit right in.’’

Davis was a perfect fit for the cross country team, too.

“She such a competitor,’’ Jones said. “She’s got the whole package

Well, almost. Even the transition in running was a challenge.

“When she first got here we were running at 9 a.m. and she was saying that this is hot,’’ Jones said. “I told her, ‘This isn’t hot. Wait until you run a 2 p.m. That’s hot.’

“But she had been running in Virginia, and she told me she wasn’t used to running in this kind of humidity.’’

Still, even in the microwave August heat that is Southwest Georgia, Davis was well ahead of everyone at DWS, and it was just a matter of time before she moved to the head of the competition.

“It was Sept. 17 and we had a meet in Macon, and we had a little cold snap and it got down to 88,’’ joked Jones. “The weather was a little cooler for her that day, and that’s the day we saw a different runner. You saw her in her own element. She just blew the field away.’’

Now, Davis is entrenched in Deerfield, where she still has a 4.52 GPA and has become one of the most popular kids at school. She’s planning on playing soccer this spring and running the distance races with the hope of winning a state title for herself, as well as a track & field team title for Deerfield.

“I was walking down the hall the other day with a friend and so many people were saying hi to me my friend said, ‘You know more people than I do,’ ” Davis said with a laugh. “It’s been a culture shock, but the food is amazing and the people here are so much nicer and things move so much slower than in Virginia. I have so many friends at school. It’s been a great experience.’’

2011 Albany Herald All-Area Girls cross country Team

Ericka Taylor, Junior, Westover

Why she’s here: Runner up for Player of the Year one year after winning the honor. She hampered by injuries but still won the Region 1-AAA title, finished 12th in the Westover Invitational in 19:15 and was the top local finisher in the GHSA Class AAA state meet.

Urssula Aviles, Senior, Pelham

Why she’s here: Was the top Class A distance runner in Southwest Georgia, winning the Region 1-A title and finishing 17th in the Class A state meet.

Davone Anduze, Junior, Monroe

Why she’s here: Finished second in the Region 1-AAA meet and was one of the top local finishers in the Class AAA state meet.

Toianna Campbell, Junior, Westover

Why she’s here: Finished third in the Region 1-AAA meet and was one of the top local finishers at the Class AAA state meet. She ran a personal best of 20:27 at the Westover Invitational.

Beth Phillips, junior, Pelham

Why she’s here: Finished second in the region meet, and helped Pelham win the Region 1-A title.