His perseverance has paid off in the form of 13 All-MIAC and six All-America honors. It has helped him become only the second Gustavus swimmer to win the conference title four years in a row in the same event
Yet according to his coach, that is not what sets Skylar apart. Rather, it is how he approaches the sport. “Skylar brings an unbridled enthusiasm that I think sometimes gets taken for granted in a sport with such rigorous demands as swimming has,” Coach Jon Carlson stated. “Skylar comes to practice fired-up and excited to take on the day's challenge. His smile and big booming laugh help create the atmosphere that this is a great place to be, with his teammates, working hard and having fun! He is the person everyone measures their success by, like ‘I kept up with Skylar for the first four, and then he just took off.’ The things Skylar does in the pool day-in and day-out with such consistency is the biggest contributor to his own individual achievements, as well as the team's success during his time in the program.”
Skylar grew up in Palatine, IL, a northwestern suburb of Chicago. He has two brothers, both of whom attended Gustavus. His younger brother, Whitaker, is on the GAC swim team and gives Skylar competition in the 500 freestyle and the 1650 freestyle.
The Davis brothers attended Palatine High, where Skylar played water polo and swam. He started on the varsity for four years in water polo, earning All-Conference and All-Section honors each season. He garnered All-State honors in his senior year. “We made it to the State tourney all four years, but lost in the first round each year,” he recalled. “Each year, the team that beat us went on to reach the championship game.”
He swam on the Pirates’ varsity for four years, winning All-Conference and All-Section honors each season. He qualified for the State Meet the final three years he competed. He made State in the 500 yard freestyle as a sophomore but did not reach the finals. As a junior, he reached State in the 200 yard freestyle and the 500 but did not reach the finals. He also swam a leg on the 4 x 100-yard relay team that made it to State but failed to place that year. In his senior year, Skylar returned to State in the 500 and won All-State honors by finishing fourth.
Skylar got started swimming competitively at age seven, when he joined the Palatine Park youth program, one of the bigger programs in the state. He qualified for the Junior Olympics each year, but never posted a first place finish. “The Junior Olympics is like a State Meet for the fall and summer programs,” he said.
While in high school, Skylar came to the decision that he would rather go to a Division III college. “I wanted to go somewhere where it would not be all about swimming,” he said. “I wanted it to be more fun, with less pressure, and where I could get a good education.”
He was recruited by many of the Division III schools in the Upper Midwest, including most of the schools in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. He also was recruited by schools from Ohio, including Division III power, Kenyon. “I made up my mind during swimming season in my senior year,” Skylar recalled. “I liked the closeness of the team at Gustavus. The camaraderie was great. They all seemed so excited to be at GAC. There was just something about Gustavus that appealed to me.”
At the MIAC Meet, Skylar won the 1650 yard freestyle as a freshman, breaking the meet record. In each of the next three years, he won the 1650 and broke his own record. His final win was in a time of 15:48.27.
His freshman year, Skylar finished second at the MIAC Meet in the 400 yard individual medley, garnering All-Conference honors. He qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships in the 1650 yard freestyle and the 500 yard freestyle and earned All-American honors by placing sixth in the 1650. He was All-American Honorable Mention in the 500, placing 14th.
As a sophomore, Skylar helped the Gusties claim the team championship by adding second-place finishes in the 500 free and 400 IM at the MIAC Meet to his title in the 1650. He also swam a leg on the Gustavus 800 yard freestyle relay team that took first. He qualified for the national meet in the 500 free, 400 IM and 1650 free. Skylar was part of three relay teams that made Nationals- the 200 yard medley, the 400 yard medley and the 800 yard freestyle. He won All-American honors by placing seventh in the 1650, and was All-American Honorable Mention in the 500 free with a 15th-place finish. The GAC 800 freestyle relay team received All-American honors for its sixth-place finish, and the 400 freestyle relay team was All-American Honorable Mention with a 13th-place showing.
Last winter, the Gustavus 800 free relay took first at the MIAC Meet with Skylar swimming a leg. Skylar reached the NCAA Meet in the 200 yard freestyle, the 500 free and the 1650 free. He was part of four Gustavus relay teams that reached the nationals, too. Skylar placed eighth in the 1650, earning All-American distinction and the GAC 800 freestyle relay team brought home eighth place, also garnering All-American.
This year, Skylar finished second behind Whitaker in the 500 free at the MIAC Meet, and was second in the 400 IM. He swam with the Gustavus 800 freestyle relay team that placed second and the 400 free relay that took fourth. He qualified for Nationals in both the 500 and 1650 for the fourth consecutive year. Skylar earned All-American honors by finishing third in the 1650. He placed 11th in the 500.
Skylar has been a leader and an inspiration to his teammates for four years. “He leads by both his words and actions,” stated Coach Carlson. “Skylar has the biggest heart and he wears it on his sleeve. Whenever he knows a performance can help the team, somehow Skylar finds a way to dig deeper and pull off the miraculous performance. His caring for his teammates is evident in how he treats his teammates and the excitement he has in being with ‘his guys.’ Skylar is special. He is a fierce competitor who the team counts on to be the stability of our success. Other coaches have said it but never has it been truer for me: If every swimmer had the attitude and drive of Skylar, we'd have as close to a perfect team as you can get.”
Away from the pool, Skylar has been part of the Gustavus Student Athletic Advisory Board his junior and senior years. The group looks out for the well-being of student athletes on campus, promotes support of Gustie athletics and encourages attendance at home games and events.
Skylar is a Geography major, with a minor in business management. He sports a 3.15 GPA and will graduate in May. He is exploring career options in the business community, possibly in management or sales. Ideally, he would like to land a position in the Chicago area.
His time spent at Gustavus “has been fun,” he said. “The people here are great. It has been a good place to be, and I’ve been happy being here.”
He has left his mark on the Gusties’ program and its record books. He also has left a deep impression on his coach. “I guess I will always remember Skylar in the moments right before a big race,” he said. “All the nervousness seems to leave him when he gets behind the blocks. You can just see him physically transform from a nervous kid to a brave warrior ready to endure anything to succeed. Nothing excites me more than the confidence he exudes by the time he steps up on the blocks. To see the transformation is cooler than any performance that follows. It is inspiring.”
[Photos are courtesy of the Gustavus Adolphus College Sports Information Office.]
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.
This feature will be included in the "Profiles of Excellence 2009-2010" book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s "Mapping the MIAC" columnist Rich Mies.