AS FAYETTEVILLE High School’s cross-country program flourishes under former triathlete coach Chris Davis, two of its top athletes have signed with college teams. Their athletic (and academic) achievements are not only a testament to the potential of this young team but have paved the way for future student-athletes to consider all of their options.
Recent graduate Robbie McVey has signed with the Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“He’s the guy that would finish the race and would go back out on the course and help the guys coming in behind him,” Davis said.
“Even when their season was over, McVey never quit running,” Davis said. He described McVey as being “self-motivated. ” That’s apparent in not only his athletic success but also his academic success. He’s a member of Fayetteville High School’s “30 Plus Club,” for students who scored over a 30 on the ACT.
“He was highly motivated to run fast and had a lot of physical toughness about him,” he said. “He was kind of a ‘leader of the pack’ kind of guy. He started out fairly fast as a runner, even his first year, and just continued to improve each year.”
His teammate, Jay Carroll, signed with the University of Tennessee Southern in Pulaski. The first thing that stood out about Carroll? His mental toughness, according to Davis.
“He’s one of the mentally toughest runners I’ve had,” he said.
Carroll was a multi-sport athlete. When he wasn’t running cross-country, he was playing soccer.
“One of the things that always stuck out to me about him was how scrappy he was,” athletic director-turned-principal Spencer Perrin said of Carroll. “It didn’t matter who they were playing or what point of the game it was; he was gonna play as hard at the very first minute of the game as he was right before the buzzer went off.”
Davis’s only challenge with Carroll was reigning him in so he didn’t overextend himself. He, just like McVey, is also part of the “30 Plus Club.”
“Robbie was a little bit that way, too,” Davis said. “That’s one of the things you look for in a runner who’s gonna be successful. When they’re gungho, they’re gonna push themselves.”
For 22 years, Davis was an elite-sponsored triathlete. He’s finished top 20 in the nation for his division several times and was still racing at a high level when he started the team.
While Davis has since retired from racing, he still goes trail running, hiking, and mountain biking with his kids. Davis said that even if his runners don’t continue running the same way post-graduation, they may become thru-hikers, backpackers, or outdoorsmen.
Running over roots and rocks, beside creeks and across rivers, among Tennessee’s wildlife, opens up an extra avenue to enjoy nature. The physical benefits are undeniable, and debatably it’s the most accessible sport there is.
Since he introduced cross-country to Fayetteville High School 10 years ago, Davis has had two women compete in the state championships, and now two men have signed to run in college.
“We’re getting stronger, and our program is growing,” Davis said.
And that’s not only good news to him. Perrin said it’d open doors for more student-athletes in sports outside of football and basketball to consider, and be considered, to continue to college teams.
“For whatever reason, people don’t think about going that avenue or that being an attainable goal to get a scholarship,” Perrin said. “What they have done now is made other colleges aware that, ‘Hey, Fayetteville City potentially has some athletes here that can help our college programs.’” GN