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Whitefish Bay's Davre beats state-level 1,600 field at Benson Invite

May 2, 2014

It was a race meant to be run at the WIAA State Meet on a warm day in June in La Crosse.

Instead, it was the girls 1,600-meters at the annual friendly hometown track festival in Wauwatosa known as the Dan Benson Invitational, contested on a cool, dank day Friday afternoon in front of a knowing crowd that knew something special was going to happen.

They were not let down, as the astoundingly talented freshman Cami Davre of Whitefish Bay led a WIAA state meet level field to the finish line, using a burning kick to beat last fall's state cross country champion Elizabeth Flatley of Brookfield Central to the finish line.

The first five times in the race obliterated and completely re-wrote the state honor roll, as Davre beat a field of stunningly talented field made up mostly of seniors. Her blistering 66-second closing 400 gave her a state-best time of 4 minutes, 54.08 seconds while Flatley came across in a personal best of 4:57.45, which is now the second best time in the state.

But those two were only the tip of the iceberg, as it is a very good bet that on a normal day, the next three finishers could and would win almost any other 1,600 race contested in the state of Wisconsin on almost any given day of the season with the times they turned in.

Natalie Schudrowitz of Wauwatosa East, who led almost the entirity of the first two laps was third (5:01.11) while Isabel Seidel of University Lake School was fourth (5:02.04) and Davre's Bay teammate Sara Coffey was fifth (5:08.32).

The crowd sat in stunned near-silence as the runners, with hands on their hips and gasping breaths, turned to one another and tried to take in the magnitude of what they had just done.

Seidel, whose older sister Molly is widely regarded as the best distance runner in Wisconsin history, turned to Davre and asked "What was your time?"

When Davre told her, Seidel's eyes went wide as she looked at Davre and quietly said "What did you run?!?"

It began a domino effect of dumbfounded looks of amazement, as coaches and runners huddled with teammates looking over splits, and giving high fives to anyone within striking distance.

Davre, who lost an equally impressive 1,600 race to Neenah senior Jessica Parker at the state indoor meet a month ago, took a little time before accepting the gravity of what she had done, as she slashed six seconds off her state-level school record set just last month.

She admitted that she was "intimidated" by the field going in, especially by Flatley, who had buried everyone the state cross country race last fall that Davre finished third in.

Flatley upped the ante' earlier this season when she turned in a state best 10:38 3,200-meter time.

"I knew it would be a really good race because there were so many good runners in it," Davre said. "I knew I had to give it my all. These were mature runners and so everyone went out pretty smart, trying to conserve energy at the beginning of the race.

"The plan was to just follow as closely as I could and then use my kick."

Flatley had taken off at the top of the third lap and tried to push the pace, but no one in the lead group of five would let her go. At the bell, it was anybody's race but at the top of the third turn, Davre just let loose with that breakneck kick that no one could keep up with.

Flatley said she didn't execute her strategy as well as she could have and that her own exceptional knowledge of the field may have worked against her.

"I'm a big distance running geek so I always know who has run what time. I sometimes think too much about that and it works against me," she said. "...but I knew it would be a great race and it turned out to be a lot of fun too."

"It was a good look into the future," said Coffey, who lopped off many seconds off her own personal best. "My coach (Mike Miller) called it a preview for state because we all wanted to PR.

"With a field as stacked as this, all you could do was go out and push."

Miller knew all that "pushing" would turn this race into a showcase for girls' distance running and he was pleased that it turned out to be a smashing success.

"Going into the race, I thought it was going to be a school record for sure (Davre's 5:00 set in that race against Parker)," he said, "because you had state CC champ in Flatley and then Natalie (Schrudowitz) and Izzy (Seidel). It was basically the state meet out there.

"It lived up to its billing."

Coaxed along by Davre, who has been under the microscope ever since she arrived on the Bay campus last fall, having turned in imposing times of 58 seconds in the 400 and by also winning a national junior track title in the 800 in a state high school championship-level time of 2:12.

Miller, who has seen a great deal in his state coaches' hall of fame career, just shrugged his shoulders in astonishment at what she did this day.

"I'm not surprised at all by the time," he said of Davre. "You never take a time for granted, but knowing her talents and abilities I'm not at all surprised. She is an incredible competitor, whatever that special wiring is, she has it. A real killer instinct."

Flatley, who has dominated distance running in the state this entire school year until this point, has one of those kind of instincts too. She also knows that there's a month until the state meet and she intends to use it wisely.

"I know I should be happy because I got a PR, but I'm never happy unless I win," she said. "...I picked up a lot of information to work off of today. How I can win (a rematch) and what kind of strategy I have to use. I have a lot I can improve on."

But Davre feels she can get better too and she knows her flat-out, nakedly imposing closing speed is her ace in the hole.

"I try to go into races confident, but never over-confident," she said, "and when the race is close I'm just glad I have my speed to rely on."

Miller will continue to work with Davre, just to see how far her speed can carry her. He knows he is looking at a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

"Just a beautiful runner," he said quietly.

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