Katelyn Davis, a sophomore at San Jacinto College outside Houston, decided a couple of years ago, while still in high school, that she wanted to become a sports reporter.
The 18-year-old, the daughter of old friends, knew I was running the sports desk at The Washington Times, and she knew a connection when she saw one.
I told the then-16-year-old high school student that, once she’d taken some classes and written for her college paper, to call me and we’d talk about bringing her to Washington for an internship.
I make that offer to just about any young person who expresses an interest in journalism. More often than not, that’s where it ends.
That was not the case with this young Texan.
Katelyn — who can sing all the words to every song from the musical “Hamilton,” as I learned this summer — was not going to miss her shot.
She stayed in touch, asked about classes and sought out my input on colleges. Before Christmas last year, not even midway through her freshman year, she was emailing regularly about coming to the District and working for The Washington Times.
Her parents and I all tried to talk her into waiting a year — I thought she needed a little more college-level work.
But waiting … that’s just not Katelyn Davis’ style — as everyone who has spent time with her knows (and as I was beginning to learn).
Katelyn, who struggled with sometimes severe epileptic seizures for more than half her life, lived with my family during her internship this summer.
She became a sister to the boys, an adoptive daughter for me and my wife.
Sometime early Saturday, she passed away in her sleep.
One night earlier, she and Will, her faithful medical alert dog, were covering a Mystics game for our newspaper, and, sure enough, she rustled up a story on Ted Leonsis, the billionaire owner of the team.
This summer, among other accomplishments, she also:
— interviewed Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, who immediately connected with the girl he called “his cousin from Texas,”
— convinced Nationals All-Star Anthony Rendon to break his “stay out of the media spotlight” rule to chat with a fellow Houstonian about his hurricane relief efforts, and
— scored an exclusive with the Nationals’ No. 1 pick, pitcher Jackson Rutledge, who it turned out was a fellow San Jacinto student.
On Tuesday, she was scheduled to meet him at a minor league game to write her last story of the summer.
When she wasn’t wowing her editor (me) and her fellow reporters with her Oprah Winfrey-like ability to get ANYONE to open up, she was helping other interns, cracking up reporters and sources with her sunny sense of humor and arguing with her editor about why her stories were shorter than she thought they should be (“you’re cutting out too much good stuff!”).
She told me that covering the Nationals had had a profound impact on her plans for the future. She worked late her first night at Nationals Park, and as the press box emptied — she loved being in the press box — she looked out onto the emerald field, she said, and the Washington night beyond the outfield walls and breathed it all in.
She could barely contain her excitement when she and Will climbed into the car for the trip home.
She’d seen everything so clearly.
She’d seen all the possibilities ahead in that moment.
She was electric with hope, inspired by baseball and journalism and the life to come.
Katelyn Davis, through and through, was, as Tom Petty would say, an American girl. She made an indelible impression on one grumpy old curmudgeon of an editor.
Go with God, Katelyn. You will be missed.
David Eldridge, who joined The Washington Times in 1999, is the paper’s sports editor.