Chris Devaney Races to All-American Title at NCAA Championships

Chris Devaney earned 31st place, All-American Honors and a personal best at the NCAA Championships.

Loyola’s two-time Atlantic 10 cross country champion Chris Devaney earned 31st place, All-American Honors and a personal best at the NCAA Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia Nov. 18. At the championship, he pushed through the final stretch and crossed the line at 29:39.

The graduate student qualified for the NCAA Championship after running a 30:27 in the 10K during the NCAA Midwest region cross country championship meet Nov. 10.

During the regional championship, Oklahoma State University first-years Denis Kipngetich and Brian Musua took home first and second place with times under the thirty-minute mark. OSU’s men’s team claimed the title of NCAA Midwest Regional Champions with 19 points. Iowa State University obtained second place with a score of 56, the University of Tulsa placed third with 131 and Loyola clinched fourth with a score of 131 as well.

Devaney is one of 38 individual runners who qualified for the NCAA Championship. The other Midwestern runners who punched their ticket for the championship were the University of Kansas’ fourth-year Chandler Gibbons, the University of Iowa’s third-year Max Murphy and the University of Illinois’ fourth-year Jack Roberts. 

Devaney, originally from New Zealand, competed against the nation’s best at the championship including the top three ranked teams before the regional championships began. 

Prior to the national championships, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association ranked Northern Arizona University, Oklahoma State University and Brigham Young University as the top three teams in the country, respectively.

Last year during the 2022 NCAA Cross Country Championships, NAU took home the team crown and graduated Stanford runner, Charles Hicks was crowned the individual champion. Former Rambler Ryan Martins ran a time of 29:28 earning him 29th place. 

This year’s championship was a competitive battle between several of the top teams and individual runners in the country. Devaney was one of the over 236 runners who competed for the title. 

The race started at a fast pace as the runners had a sudden downhill stretch at the beginning of the course. Northern Arizona University and the University of Arkansas runners led the beginning of the race down the front stretch with Oklahoma State University on their tails. The early leaders of the race ran the first kilometer at under a four-minute pace. 

While numerous members of the country’s top teams were clustered together in the front, Stanford University’s fourth-year Ky Robinson and Harvard University’s third-year Graham Blanks managed to compete with the nation’s best teams as they held on with the front of the pack. 

The race continued as an intense battle through the first half. Around the four kilometer mark, the difference between first and 45th place was only five seconds. As the race continued, the leading pack of runners began pushing the pace and separated themselves from the rest of the field.

Notably, OSU’s graduate student Victor Shitsama passed 24 runners in one kilometer, making him one of the top 10 runners by the 4.5 kilometer mark. Shitsama was able to stick with the nation’s best, earning him 12th place with a time of 29:16. 

Around the 4.5 kilometer mark, Devaney was closely behind NAU’s redshirt fourth-year Theo Quax. Following Devaney were OSU’s first-year Adisu Guadie and University of Michigan’s graduate student Tom Brady. Brady was eventually able to pass Devaney, finishing in 27th. Devaney was able to maintain his lead over Guadie who placed 50th. 

Close to the halfway point of the race, OSU had their top five runners within the top 19. As the race inched closer to five kilometers, the runners became more dispersed. There was still a clear front pack led by members of team title contenders NAU, OSU and Arkansas.

Right before the race reached seven kilometers, Blanks was able to disrupt the OSU duo Kipngetich and Musua by holding onto Kipngetich’s pace as Musua slowly fell behind. Sticking with Kipngetich’s lead pace was Robinson and Arkansas’ third-year Patrick Kiprop. 

As Devaney passed the one-mile remaining marker, he was surrounded by the University of Akron’s first-year Timothy Chesondin and Princeton University’s third-year Nicholas Bendtsen. 

With under one kilometer left of the race, New Mexico’s first-year Habtom Samuel led the race with Blanks holding 0.4 seconds behind. Robinson attempted to maintain his podium status as he followed just under four seconds behind Samuel.

As Samuel and Blanks continued their battle for first place, Blanks made a skilled move passing Samuel around the 9.2 kilometer mark. Blanks continued to push the pace as the runners went downhill, extending his strong stride and continuing to push forward.

Blanks claimed the championship title with a time of 28:37 as pointed to the crowd. Once Blanks crossed the finish line, he became the first Ivy League runner to obtain the title.

Devaney was able to hold off BYU’s James Corrigan, New Mexicos’ first-year Evans Kiplagat and Syracuse University’s redshirt second-year Sam Lawler who all finished within three seconds behind Devaney. 

Featured image courtesy of Loyola Athletics

Sabrina Godinho dos Santos

Sabrina Godinho dos Santos