No matter how hard you tried, it would be hard to match three more diverse personalities than American Heritage’s Deja Parrish, Boyd Anderson’s Kali Davis-White and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Kendall Ellis, who each will represent Florida in the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle on Sunday.
In contrast to the bubbly Davis-White, who keeps the mood light, Parrish is even keeled and Ellis is the cerebral student of track and field history.
As unique as this dynamic sprint trio appears, a desire to step out of the shadows of past superstars is the common goal that binds them.
Ellis chases the 400-meter state record of former St. Thomas Aquinas great Sanya Richards. Davis-White will try to replace former Cobras teammate Shayla Sanders as the Class 4A state champion in the 100 and 200. And Parrish appears to have an obstructed path to her first individual state sprint titles with the graduation of her Class 2A nemesis, former Miami Jackson superstar Robin Reynolds.
Davis-White, a FSU signee, finally gets the spotlight all to herself after forming the nation’s most formidable sprint duo with Sanders the past two seasons.
Davis-White, who will enter the season ranked No. 2 nationally in the 100 (11.45) and 200 (23.57) after helping Sanders lead the U.S. 400-meter relay team to gold at the IAAF World Junior Championships, will be tasked with helping Boyd Anderson defend its first girls’ track state title.
“Just realizing that Shayla, our captain, is gone, somebody has to take the torch,” said Davis-White, a state runner-up in the 100 and 200 last season. “I feel some responsibility because I know the ropes, of what it takes. I’m not worried about personal times this season.”
Already in select company by winning back-to-back 400-meter state titles in her freshman and sophomore seasons, Ellis (53.22) knows eclipsing Richards’ hallowed 52.51 — deemed untouchable by most, would cement her legacy.
“I don’t want athletes comparing themselves to Sanya, I want them comparing themselves to me,” Ellis said. “The fact that Sanya went to St. Thomas makes me want the record even more. I’m going for that record this season. It’s going to take the extra work.”
Ellis, who should play a huge role in Aquinas’ challenge to the Cobras’ reign in 4A, said the three sprint stars — early co-favorites for Runner of the Year along with American Heritage’s Daesha Rogers, should bring out the best in each other.
“The competition should push all of us,” Ellis said. “I think we all run very differently but we share that same mentality of going out there to win. It should be a battle every time we get out on the course.”
Early signs show Parrish, a key figure in the Patriots’ back-to-back state titles, is ready to add state titles in the 200 and 400, which Reynolds held a monopoly on last season.
Parrish opened the indoor season with a scintillating 57.13 (No. 10 nationally) to win the NCRunners Elite Holiday Invitational in North Carolina and then cruised to the Jimmy Carnes Meet title in 57.64. Parrish (53.20 in the 400, 23.94 in the 200 ) said she felt burdened the past two seasons with the constant comparisons to Reynolds, who capped her illustrious prep career with a state-record 14 individual state titles.
“This season I feel so relaxed,” Parrish said. “It’s going to be a great, all-around season. I can feel it. I’ve always felt this pressure of me and Robin going back and forth. This season I’m going to enjoy track and field more.”