Lady Panthers’ Barrett Davis beats the odds as top female student-athlete

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Excelling at sports and academics may seem to come naturally to North Johnston High senior Barrett Davis. After all, her parents, Nicole and Jeff Davis, are both educators and coaches and Barrett and her twin sister, Mary Catherine, have been around athletics for most of their lives.

By their mother’s admission, Barrett might be a slightly better athlete while Mary Catherine has a bit of an edge in the class room. Barrett, however, had enough in both arenas to be named the Thomas Law Attorneys Student-Athlete of the Year as presented by The Wilson Times.

“I was surprised that I got it,” Barrett said after being presented the plaque during North Johnston’s Awards Day on May 18. “I guess because there are so many people who qualify for it that are really good and also deserving to get it as well.”

Barrett proved most deserving as a four-sport standout for the Lady Panthers. She helped North Johnston win the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference volleyball championship in the fall, earning the league’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year and team MVP honors while playing for her mother. She will continue her volleyball career at William Peace University in the fall.

After playing basketball — the sport her dad has coached throughout his career and currently at Cleveland High — in the winter, Barrett was a senior leader for the girls soccer team this spring, garnering her second straight All-EPC honor as well as a repeat selection to the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association’s 2-A All-Region 3 squad.

For good measure, Barrett also ran track and qualified for the 2-A East Regional in the long jump.

Barrett and Mary Catherine own the record for most varsity letters won — 15 — by a female student-athlete at North Johnston.

If that wasn’t enough, she and her sister are both power-lifters. Barrett owns 99 career USA Power Lifting records since she began lifting around the age of 12. She won the Girls Weightlifting Award at North Johnston this year and goes to competitions “about twice a year.”

In the classroom, Barrett posted a 4.33 weighted GPA and, along with her sister, is ranked 14th in her senior class while taking honors courses. She is also a member of National Honor Society and The Prowl student booster club.

Managing her time, she said, is the key to making good grades.

“You just have to manage your time really well and once you do it for a while, it just gets kind of regular and normal,” she said.

And, of course, having a twin sister to keep her sharp always helps.

“We definitely compete against each other and practice with each other and make each other better,” Barrett said.

For both sisters, however, the first part of their lives was a battle unlike anything they’ve faced on the volleyball or basketball courts or soccer fields. Born prematurely, the sisters spent their first three or four months in the neonatal intensive care unit at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill.

“They were extremely sick. They were not supposed to do anything that they are doing right now,” said Nicole Davis. “They had major issues. They had years worth of therapy, were in and out of the hospital intensive care.”

One of the Davis family traditions has become visiting the UNC Medical Center NICU every year before Christmas, to show the families who are there that there is hope.

“So, because people were so kind to us, we wanted to do something and we’ve done it since the next Christmas that they were out,” Nicole Davis said.

Sports started early for Barrett and her sister.

“They started doing kinder-soccer and kinder-basketball when we lived in Smithfield when they were 4 years old. Whatever we could dabble in — tee-ball, soccer,” Nicole Davis said.

The fight wasn’t over for Barrett or Mary Catherine even after they reached school age. Mary Catherine was far behind physically while Barrett struggled with cognitive development.

“She had to work really hard to overcome that,” their mother said. “She spends a lot of hours studying. Mary Catherine, it comes a little bit easier to her but Barrett, it does not. But Barrett’s a little stronger athletically than Mary Catherine is, so they’ve complemented each other.”

But those battles helped both sisters become what they are today: model students and outstanding athletes.

“She’s done nothing but work since the moment she came into this world,” Nicole Davis said of Barrett.

Barrett said that her parents have inspired her to become a coach someday.

For Barrett, there were a lot of good memories from her senior season — beating North Pitt in three games to win the EPC volleyball title or a late-season trip to Cape Hatteras to face the Lady Hurricanes in soccer.

“Athletics is what I’m going to miss the most about high school,” Barrett assured.