At 20 years old, Rose Davies is back in athletics
People run for many reasons, but there is a constant in terms of measurement - time.
This singular constant is most apparent in the competitive world - providing an instant indicator of ability, to those both young and old.
For Rose Davies, an always-smiling Newcastle resident - indications of her ability arrived early, as early as fourteen.
“I had a pretty good start to athletics.”
This humble self-assessment from Davies brings some jovial prodding - a 2:08.61 800m performance at such a young age turned heads across Australia. Little did Davies realise, a weekend 800m performance sparked a more spectacular 1500m run, a 4:27.68 run at the Commonwealth Games trials, rubbing shoulders with Australian representatives and cementing her status as a junior to keep an eye on.
Davies bursts into laughter, “I think I dropped 10 seconds off my PB that year, or something crazy?!” finally admitting the 2014 she enjoyed, somewhat oblivious to her talents.
Continuing to medal at a national junior level throughout her career, Davies’ running took a turn in her under-20 year, a pivotal time for any junior athlete. Struck down with inflammation issues in her hip, Davies was unable to run due to the pain, withdrawing from the World Cross Country Trials inside the first two kilometres.
Davies quickly entered a difficult transitional period of any athlete’s life…
“After that I was out for nearly a year and a half.
I was injured for half of that time, and I think because I lost a lot of motivation, I just sort of did the ‘teenage thing’, lived life a little.”
“I only got back properly training at the start of 2018.”
A common passage of sorts, many promising juniors step away from the sport between the ages of 17-21, yet in 2019 at the age of 19, Davies finished seventh in the Australian 5000m Championships, her first attempt at the distance. A time of 15:45.91 ranking Davies 11th in Australia in 2019.
The performance catapulted Davies from a promising junior to a 19-year old well ahead of the curve. Whilst Davies’ performances have been exceptional, the Newcastle local provides a refreshing take on the “why” behind her return to running and racing.
“Seeing all the girls I used to race doing so well, it just motivated me to think 'I could do that!'.”
“I got sick of just feeling unfit, and doing nothing - I was still doing a little bit of jogging, and I think I got sick of doing little 20 minute jogs and just being on the floor at the end of it.”
In a space where athletics often loses its best and brightest, Davies interest was maintained by the coach who has assisted in transforming her into the multi-distance athlete we see today.
A 2:11:36 marathoner, Olympian Scott Wescott has long mixed coaching alongside his own running. Westcott has gradually developed a strong squad in Newcastle, with the likes of Guy Walters and Andrew Buchanan both under his tutelage.
Wescott always left the door ajar for Davies, “I was still sort of turning up to sessions, so it wasn’t as if I ever fully stopped running. I think Scott was happy to see my switch in terms of mindset - ‘oh she’s focused now, she’s ready to do proper sessions.’ I think he turned a blind eye when I would stop after one rep, or not turn up because I’d been out the night before.”
Davies has always been conscious of the supporters closest to her, weighing her decision carefully to return to training, “I think because it was a new training group - I didn’t want to say ‘Yep, I’m in’ then never show up for a session.”
Davies felt a pull to return, but knew her commitment had to match, “I think in the back of my mind I always knew I was going to come back, it was just when I was ready - plus I didn’t have school anymore either, so I was sitting at home all day doing nothing.”
The mindset embraced by Davies nowadays seemed difficult to comprehend during her competitive return. A first outing to the track over 1500m found Davies barely breaking 5 minutes, a time she eclipsed by some 30 seconds in her early teens, “I remember thinking, “wow, that was hard.. I might never get back there.”
“I think in the back of my mind I always knew I was going to come back, it was just when I was ready...”
Not only has Rose gotten back to where she was, but the 20 year old has taken leaps forward.
On February 6th 2020, the strongest domestic women’s 5000m race in recent history took off at Lakeside Stadium, with fourteen women seeded at 15:40 or faster racing for a national title. Davies navigated a torrid early pace in a calm and controlled manner, in her second attempt at the distance following a 15:45.91 debut in the 2019 national championship. Improving on her 2019 placing of seventh, Davies was the sixth Australian across the line, taking a chunk off her personal best, with a 15:30.15 run.
“It was a great experience to be in such a talented field, and be able to compete with the best. I feel encouraged about the work that’s coming up, to get me to the next level.”
As the Tokyo Olympics draw nearer, Davies looks toward her first attempt at racing and training overseas, with a possible training camp in the USA on the radar. Davies’ coach Scott Wescott has a positive relationship with Melbourne Track Club, and the group has been welcoming of Davies joining in on Falls Creek training trips.
Davies provides a refreshing take on going to the US to train, “It’s a lot of money to go overseas and not run very well, or not train very well - so you want to make sure you’re going for a purpose.” Davies’ open communication with Wescott has proven key in discussing the upcoming stages of her career, “I think it comes back to my coach Scotty, he’s done it all, he can give you the best advice - I just listen to what he says!”
Davies represents an emerging generation in the sport, providing a remarkably mature insight on the junior to senior transition, “When I was younger I used to hate racing, I used to get so nervous. I’d cry on the start line because I didn’t want to run. I used to put so much pressure on myself, basically because I didn’t lose that much when I was at states. So I used to put so much pressure on myself, and if I came second… that was last to me. After a couple of losses I would get to nationals and I’d be in the call room crying to my Dad saying ‘please don’t let me run!’ It was very stressful, and I think that when I had my break I just thought ‘I don’t want to do that anymore’.”
Now one of the most exciting talents in Australian distance running, Davies has an entirely renewed approach to racing, “I think I approach races a lot differently now, I don’t even think about the race until pretty much the last lap. It’s literally another race, and unless you win the Olympic Games, nobody’s going to remember what you did. It’s a much better approach than what I used to have.”
“I don’t like to think, ‘these are the times I have to hit’ - I don’t wear a watch in races, I just like to sit in with the pack and get dragged around a little to start.. That way if you don’t get a good time, hopefully you end up with a good place!”
Davies believes 5000m will ultimately be her “sweet spot” in terms of a race distance, and with the momentum she has developed over the last two seasons - who could blame her?