The California Comet - Harold Davis, by Justin Clouder

If Calvin Smith was unlucky to have come up against Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson at the peak of his career, this story is of an athlete who was even more unlucky. Harold Davis, known as the California Comet, was completely dominant in the sprints from 1940-1943, a time when, of course, there were no major championships to win!

Davis won the AAU 100m title in 1940, 1942 and 1943 (second in 1941) and won the 200m AAU title all 4 years 1940-1943. That's 7 out of 8 titles, with 1 second place. His only challenger over this time was Barney Ewell, who pipped him for the 1941 AAU 100m title. Had there been Olympic Games in 1940 and 1944, there seems little doubt that Davis could have been a multiple gold medal winner, although of course many potential challengers were otherwise engaged during those years.

Harold Davis was born on 5th January 1921. He was 5'10" and about 160 lbs. He was a dreadful starter, and regularly used to make up yards of ground on other athletes - not easy over 100y. It was one such performance which first brought him to the attention of the track world in 1940 when, aged 19, he fell onto all fours at the start of a 100y race in Los Angeles, then proceeded to make up 5-7m on a crack field to finish 4th.

His only loss in a major 100m race (he never lost at 200m / 220y) came in similar fashion, when losing the 1941 AAU title to Barney Ewell after giving Ewell a 3m lead in the first few yards with an appalling start. Both men clocked 10.3, making one wonder what Davis might have done with a good start.

He did set two World Records, one at 100m with 10.2 in Compton on 6th June 1941 (he was timed at 5.7 and 4.5 for the two halves of that race) and one at 100y with 9.4 in Fresno on 16th May 1942 (this was not ratified as he used unapproved blocks). His legal 200m best was 20.4 (on a straight) in 1942, and he twice ran a straight course 20.2 with wind assistance, once at 220y in 1941 and once at 200m in 1943 (to win the AAUs). Both these races consisted of 10.3 first halves and 9.9 second halves.

Overall, a great talent who never got to perform on a World stage.

Justin Clouder