'It was just a really big relief'

'It was just a really big relief'

CHAMPAIGN — Look at pictures of Jon Davis completing his first-ever sub-four-minute mile, and you see an excited athlete surrounded by equally thrilled Illinois teammates. Becoming only the 498th American to accomplish the feat will generate that response.

But a day after Davis finished 1 mile Saturday at The Armory in 3 minutes, 58.36 seconds — setting an Illini record in the process — he described a different emotion.

"It was just a really big relief," Davis said Sunday. "I thought if I could get to 1,200 meters at three flat or 2:59, I knew I could finish. I felt a lot better than I thought I would at that point."

Davis said he and distance coach Jake Stewart began discussing the idea of breaking four minutes in a mile after the former Oakwood standout zoomed through eight laps at The Armory in 4:01 last season.

Davis was aided Saturday by a pair of teammate pacers. One Illini athlete paired with Davis through the first 800 meters, and a second took over for the final stretch.

"Running a really fast mile on a 200-meter track is something you have to strategize," Davis said. "You have to set yourself up well for the last 200 and 400 meters. I was hitting my splits, and I was pretty much on pace the entire time."

Davis said the biggest keys for him in achieving this milestone were consistent training and good health. Even though Davis said he didn't feel particularly good prior to Saturday's run, he believes a quality month of practice played in heavily to the result.

Next for Davis will be the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 9-10. Davis said he's planning to compete in either the 3 or 5 kilometers — and make some personal history in one of those events, too.

"We're hoping to hit the national qualifying time and just move on from there," he said. "Keep things simple."