Davis ’07 transitions to throwing

For most of the women’s basketball team, spring will be a period of much-needed rest after a draining campaign. But for Erica Davis ’07, a new season has just begun.

The starting center has now moved to the track, where she will contend as one of the Ivy League’s best all-around throwers. Her ascent toward the top of the league is all the more remarkable considering the steep learning curve she has negotiated throughout her career, jumping back and forth between the hardwood and the infield.

Just 10 days ago, in the Bulldogs’ first outdoor meet of the season, Davis notched personal bests in both the shot put (13.76 meters) and the hammer throw (40.79 meters) and claimed second in discus with a throw of 43.52 meters.

That is an impressive weekend for any athlete. But with relatively little experience under her belt and valuable months of training ahead, Davis may be bound for even more success.

Her career has been one of exploration. After joining her high school’s basketball team as a freshman, Davis was essentially forced into throwing by the school’s athletic department during her sophomore year. Just a year later, recruiters were knocking at the door, hoping to add her talents to their basketball or track programs.

“I didn’t really see a future past high school in either until it was getting to that point,” Davis said. “I saw the way it would work as the way it worked in high school.”

But by junior year, it appeared she had a choice to make. Track coaches, knowing their sport requires two full seasons of competition, rarely allow their recruits to dabble in other sports. Not so for Davis, who said she used her interest in both basketball and track as a bargaining tool with prospective coaches.

That bargaining led her to Yale, where she has flourished. During the 2004-05 basketball season, Davis led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots en route to being named second team All-Ivy. As an encore, she went to Outdoor Heptagonal Championships in May and threw a personal best 44.68 meters in the discus to secure second place and a spot on the league’s second team.

Davis’ performance at Heps was a bit of a surprise, landing more than two meters farther than her previous best.

“It was kind of like not studying for the entire year,” she said. “And then cramming before the final and seeing, ‘Yay! I did well!’”

This year, Davis will look to build on last year’s performance and possibly win a league title. After a disappointing basketball season, Davis had no time to dwell on missed opportunities. Instead, she was thrown back into the fire, forced to integrate into an entirely new team.

Davis is not the only two-sport Eli. Maggie Westfal ’09 and Crysti Howser ’09 each starred on both the soccer and hockey teams. Francis Johnson ’09 is a member of the men’s squash and lacrosse teams. Several others play on different combinations of teams, all coping with the yearlong grind and annual transitions.

Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09, a guard on the basketball team, said Davis can do it because she loves to compete in both forums.

“I know she always wanted to play both sports,” Lillemoe said. “I think it’s easy for her because she just loves both so much.”

The moves from one sport to the other and back again have helped Davis develop a nimble, powerful frame. She said the speed and endurance developed during the winter translates well to the track. And the power built in the weight room and on the track in the spring has helped her become a physical force in the lane each winter. Now all she has to do is relearn anything she has forgotten during her track-free months.

“I really feel even more so than in basketball that my goal is technique,” Davis said. “I need to learn more technique and get rid of any bad habits. With so much time devoted to basketball, [track] is such a short season. And the bad things are just so much easier to remember than the good ones.”

If her performance at the Long Beach Classic was any indication, Davis had little trouble remembering the technique that brought her so much success last season. The Bulldogs will need her as a consistent force all spring, though, if they hope to contend for an Ivy League crown in May. Only Margo Angelopoulos ’06 was a dependable scorer among throwers during the indoor season.

Sprinter Sharifa Love ’09 said Davis appears ready to solidify the throwing unit immediately.

“Erica is going to be solid for use because we need to score as many points in field events as possible,” Love said. “She is coming at a great time.”

While the move to Division I athletics has come with increased responsibility and commitment, one thing that has not changed is Davis’ enthusiasm for the life of a two-sport athlete.

“I still kind of feel the same way I did in high school,” she said. “I’m riding it out and seeing how far it goes. I’m still loving it. I’m still having fun. And I am still improving, apparently.”

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