Jerome Davis: Burrough’s World Class Sprinter

Jerome Davis: Burrough’s World Class SprinterBruce Auld, a former Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent, is writing the history of Burroughs High School. The articles that are being published are excerpts from his upcoming book, exclusive to The News Review

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Jerome Davis, Burroughs High School Class of 1995 (a USA Today All-American at Burroughs), represented the University of Southern California (USC) and the USA as a world class 400-meter sprinter. As a neighbor of the Davis family, I first met Jerome as a two-year-old in a diaper running barefoot down Perdew Street. His mother Mary Davis shouted, “Catch him!” I shouted back, “I Can’t! He’s too fast!” In my last year as principal of Richmond School, I observed Jerome as a Kindergartner challenging everyone on the playground to a race. Later, Jerome played youth football. When he broke past the linebackers, a touchdown was inevitable.

Although a track star in high school, Jerome played varsity basketball. Jerome’s older brother Eddie, a 1990 BHS basketball standout died of cancer in early 1995, which was Jerome’s senior year. Eddie had recently graduated from California State University, Fresno. Playing against Palmdale in the season finale, the Burros were down 20 points at the half. Eddie’s jersey was “retired” during halftime. Jerome led the second half comeback, scoring 21 points. Down by one point with three seconds left on the clock, Jerome made two free throws to win the game.

Jerome’s success as an elite sprinter was in the PAC 10 Conference, which became the PAC 12 Conference in 2011.

The conference history dates back to 1915, then known as the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC). Prior to graduating from Burroughs, Jerome accepted a full ride scholarship to USC to compete in track as a sprinter. Appropriately nick-named “The Jet,” Jerome accomplished the following:

Ten-time Collegiate All American

Six-time World Champion

Four-time PAC 10 Conference Champion at 400m (Freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years)

Three-time PAC 10 Conference Champion at 4x400m Relay

Two-time PAC 10 Conference Champion at 4x100m Relay

1998 NCAA Champion at 400m

1999 PAC 10 Conference

Champion at 200m, 400m, 4x400m relay and 4x100m relay

1999 PAC 10 Athlete of the Year

Jerome was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2006, selected by a 100-member panel. To comprehend this honor for Jerome, visit the USC Hall of Fame website.

In a recent interview, I asked Jerome to describe his early running experience and the environment of some of his wins (paraphrased by this writer): Jerome, whose dad, Ed, ran in high school, was always fast. He signed up for the Junior Olympics while attending fourth grade at Richmond Elementary School and was fastest in his age group, qualifying for regional competition in Bakersfield.

Not qualifying to move on that year, Jerome as a sixth grader qualified to compete at the Junior Olympics Nationals in Spokane, Washington. Not placing in his individual event, the IWV team of sixth graders took sixth place in the nation in the 4x100m relay. Jerome’s teammates were Demario Brown, Damon Stalnaker and Ryan Lilly.

In his eighth-grade year, Jerome’s Dad enrolled Jerome in “Fresh Flash,” a track club in Bakersfield. This was highly motivational for Jerome, because he realized he really had to work hard to win and Jerome despised losing. It was with that team that Jerome decided his event was the 400m run. Jerome and his Fresh Flash teammates qualified for Nationals at the University of North Carolina and he placed third in his individual 400m event and second with his teammates in both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay events. Jerome was actively recruited coming out of Burroughs, settling on two schools, the University of Arkansas and USC. After the passing of his brother Eddie, he chose USC to be close to Ridgecrest to be support for his grieving family. Jerome’s world class career at USC:

In his first season as a USC sprinter, the PAC 10 championships were hosted by UCLA at Ducky Drake Stadium. A mere two hours from Ridgecrest (of course depending on traffic), the stands included family and friends (this writer with family in tow, were present to cheer for Jerome, a USC Trojan, yet wearing our “true blue Bruins” hats and shirts). Freshman don’t typically win a PAC 10 title. Jerome did and he won the same title three more times.

The 1996 World Junior Championships were held in Sydney, Australia with a climate similar to Santa Monica, California, very near the USC campus. As a sophomore, experiencing his first international competition, he wasn’t sure how he “stacked-up” with the competition. He won the world championship.

The University of Washington, Seattle was the host of the 1997 PAC 10 championships. For the first time in twenty-five years, USC won the conference title. Jerome won his second 400m title and anchored the victorious 4x400m relay.

Cantania, Italy was the host of the 1997 World University Games. Although Jerome appreciated the wonderful climate, he grew tired of the food. Too much pasta. Jerome knows food, but once questioned if I knew what to do with the “Old Bay” spice in my kitchen. I proved to him that I could use it tastefully. The Cantania pasta must have made him sluggish, resulting in a silver medal in the 400m, then recovering to win the 4x400m relay.

Stanford University hosted the 1998 PAC 10 championships. For the third time, Jerome took the 400m title, also anchoring the gold medal 4x400m relay.

The 1998 NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships were held in frigid Buffalo, New York. Jerome’s mom’s family resided in Rochester, New York and were in attendance to watch Jerome become the only Burrough to win a NCAA Division I championship, winning the 400m event.

The 1999 PAC 10 Track and Field Championships were held in “hotter than Ridgecrest” Tempe, Arizona. Jerome “ran the table,” taking four gold medals: the 4x400m relay, 400m, 200m, and the 4x100m relay. Closing out his PAC 10 career, Jerome was named the PAC 10 Athlete of the Year.

Jerome’s wife, Angela Manuel-Davis is a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee at Oral Roberts University, likewise a sprinter, with a resume as strong as Jerome’s. I assumed they met somewhere on a track. They did not. They met at her aunt’s memorial service.

Her father is Jerry Manuel. Jerry was drafted into Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1979 by the Detroit Tigers. He was with MLB for 40 years, managing the Chicago White Sox and the New York Mets. He was Manager of the Year in 2000.

Oprah Winfery named Angela as one of “100 Most Influential People in Her Life.”

Jerome and Angela were married in 2005 and now live in Beverley Hills. Jerome has recently limited his motivational speaking schedule to take on the “nuts and bolts” role in the operation of Angela’s blossoming fitness empire, operating on both coasts. Angela’s soon to be released book, Take the Gift focuses on “finding your purpose.” Jerome and Angela have two sons, Edward (15) and Lorenzo (12). When first exploring this article, I was concerned for these two sons of highly accomplished parents. Would they be comfortable with their own level of play? Not to worry. Edward is on his way to play soccer in New York for the Red Bulls Academy at age 15. Likely, there is a professional contract in his future. Lorenzo is following Papa Jerry’s path on a travelling club baseball team. Does Major League Baseball have a minimum age?

A track star, but certainly not a swimmer, I would occasionally find Jerome cooling off in our family pool and would ask, “Jerome, are you drowning?” “Not yet,” was always his response. Jerome was voted “Best Dancer” by his classmates.

This writer has known Jerome most of his life. Although Jerome is an elite athlete and successful entrepreneur, Eddie and Mary Davis raised well-grounded children, both their own and the many they “took under their wings.” Jerome remains authentically Jerome.

Courtesy photo: At the 2001 Penn Relays, Jerome ran with the USA “Blue” Team. Jamaica took the Gold Medal. Jerome took home the Silver.

Story First Published: 2021-08-20