Lone senior runner improves team, self in new season

Lone senior runner improves team, self in new season

By Logan Hitchcock / For The Pitt News

While many students begin their day at Pitt rolling out of bed and stumbling to a morning class, Cullen Davis’ day starts differently.

As one of the top runners on the Pitt men’s cross country team, and the only senior on the team, he naturally begins each day with a lengthy morning run.

Davis, a senior majoring in sociology, is currently enjoying a successful start to his final campaign as a runner for the cross country team. After holding off 41 other runners to finish in first place during the team’s first University meet at Buffalo on Sept. 6, and finishing 14th two weeks later in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, Davis has helped the team to a hot start. The team has already started better than it did last season, winning its first two meets—as opposed to its third-place finish at the Spiked Shoe Invitational last year.

Davis has had a love for running for many years. After his “fitness fanatic” father introduced him to cross country in seventh grade, Davis decided to try cross country to pass the time during the fall. Always a competitor, he was motivated to succeed by the friendly competition with his twin brother Kyle, who runs for the cross country and track teams at the U.S. Naval Academy. As the seasons passed by, and more races came to a close, Davis began to see a future in the sport.

“I knew my junior year of high school that I was going to be able to run competitively in college,” Davis said.

As the only senior on Pitt’s cross country team, Cullen has progressed in his own running this season but also helps the younger members of the team.

“He sets a good example for how to train. He’s incredibly dedicated to running,” teammate Mike Runco, a junior, said. “He’s at it all the time.”

Davis’ coaching staff has also noticed growth in his contributions to the team, even outside of meets.

“He’s a great kid, a very hard worker,” assistant coach Jim Lear said. “He’s willing to go above and beyond in everything he does.”

But Pitt was not the original endpoint for Davis’ college career. He elected to attend Temple University on a running scholarship after high school, and, prior to attending his first practice, he already had doubts about running.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” he said. “I didn’t think I had to work hard, and I barely ran the summer going into my freshman year.” 

Early into his college career at Temple, his lack of conditioning contributed to injuries, last place finishes and waning confidence. He knew that as soon as he got himself in shape, he could compete.

A semester passed, and as the spring track season began, Davis noticeably improved and knew improvements and eventual first-place finishes would soon come.

“I think my big breakout was my sophomore year of cross country — that’s when I started to train seriously,” Davis said.

During his sophomore season at Temple, he built a relationship with Adam Bray, former Temple and current Pitt assistant cross country and track and field coach.

Bray joined the Pitt coaching staff in January 2013, and Davis followed him after experiencing a chaotic spring semester at Temple.

After completing his transfer to Pitt and reuniting with Bray, he said, “I’ve just been getting better and better.”

Bray agreed.

“It’s awesome to have him here and have him be a part of our program,” he said.

Since his transfer to Pitt, the program has been trending in the right direction, and Davis is at the forefront.

“One thing I’m proud of is transferring to Pitt and being able to turn the team around,” Davis said.

Davis’ training has helped him meet his goal of competing with the front pack in each of his first two races this season. But the year has just begun, and Davis knows what he wants by the season’s end.

“My goal for this season is to be in the front. To belong in the front,” said Davis.

Although he knows that this season is likely his last of competition, Davis isn’t worried about the future, because he will always have running.

His goals don’t stop at Pitt — after his competitive career comes to a close, Davis plans to run a marathon.

“The beauty of running is that you can do it for the rest of your life,” he said.

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