* St. Raphael Academy's Devan Kipyego's has made a big breakthrough over the 2022 outdoor season
Photo Credit: Devan Kipyego/Instagram
By Ian Decker - MileSplit Correspondent
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Perhaps Devan Kipyego's confidence began with a bus ride.
Music was blaring on that trip from Rhode Island to Philadelphia this April as Kipegyo, a junior at St. Raphael Academy, and his teammates were on the road to the Penn Relays.
Then, as the anchor of St. Raphael's distance medley relay, Kipyego did the unthinkable: He took his team from eighth to second and pushed Union Catholic, one of the top DMR units in the country, to nearly the brink.
Kipyego finished the final leg -- 1,600 meters -- in a blistering 4:04 split as St. Raphael clocked a time of 10:15.41, which was the third-fastest in state history. It currently stands as the sixth-best effort of 2022.
"I felt really good that day," Kipyego recounted. "Going into the race, we were pumped, and we were like, 'We have a shot to place.' Throughout the race, I was making moves. I got boxed in, which I didn't really like. But I crossed the end and really just gave it all I had."
While the move into second might have surprised some, head track and field coach Chris Magill knew his team could compete with UC.
"We were ranked as a team 12th going into the race," Magill said, "and I thought if we could just get it somewhat close for Devan, I actually thought we would finish second."
Even though the team didn't complete the miracle comeback, what stuck out to Magill was Kipyego's dedication to his teammates.
"He ran a very special race on a big stage," Magill said. "What was special about it was even before we went, he had a decision to run an open mile run or run with his teammates. He chose to run with his teammates. That's the type of athlete he is -- he's not selfish at all."
Kipyego's dash into second signified a breakthrough for the junior. His 4:04 split was an eye-opener, as it was eight seconds faster than his converted 1,600m best of 4:12.34. It was also six seconds faster than his top indoor mile.
"He made the place jump," Magill said.
"At this past tournament, I wasn't one of the top runners in the region," Kipyego said. "But now I can say that I am part of one of the top guys in the East."
But a year ago, running wasn't Kipyego's primary sport. Growing up a Real Madrid fan, Kipyego had an unbridled passion and unquestionable talent for the beautiful game. As a freshman, he led St. Raphael in goals and was a dominant presence in front of the net for the varsity soccer team.
However, after sustaining an injury that led to five months of physical therapy, Kipyego decided to prioritize running.
"He got really hurt, and they didn't know how bad it was gonna be," Magill said. "I think that kind of pushed him over the edge to become a full-time runner."
But the injury was just one of the factors that precipitated the change.
The other was Kipyego's brother, Darius.
Darius Kipyego is a now freshman at Iowa State and an NCAA contender in the 800m. He also was a silver medalist in the 800m at the 2019 Pan American U20 Championships as a 16-year-old.
"Darius is a fantastic role model for [Devan]," Magill said, "and I think seeing how hard Darius worked in high school and continues to work definitely helps pave the way for Devan."
The two have formed a tighter bond as each has realized his star in the sport.
"[Darius] was always hard on me about being the best I could be," Devan said. "He was always very strict, but seeing his success helped me realize that I have real potential in how far I can go. He's made me learn to love the sport."
And so it has been a season of incredible moments for Devan Kipyego. He added his name to an exclusive list of runners to win three indoor state titles after finishing first in the 3,000m, 1,500m and 1,000m at the RIIL State Indoor Championships.
Kipyego followed his triple crown with a memorable race at Penn, but his encore is yet to come. That will happen at the Trials of Miles: Track Night NYC at Icahn Stadium on May 20 in New York City, where Kipyego will run the mile.
* Kipyego in the 3K at the RIIL Indoor Championships
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Most recently, Kipyego ran 4:13.81 at the CT Distance Festival in West Hartford, Connecticut. But the goal is for Kipyego to become the first high school runner in Rhode Island to run a sub-four-minute mile.
"Our focus is breaking the four-minute mile," Magill said. "I know it's a long ways away from what he's run, but he's a junior. We'd like to do something in Rhode Island that no one's ever done."
While the aim of the indoor season was speed, Kipyego has transitioned to a strength-based training program this spring. Magill has Kipyego running longer intervals with short rest, often doing mile repeats to reach the four-minute mark.
Not only does Kipyego have immense natural talent, but his preparation has also put him on the verge of accomplishing something no other high schooler has done in Rhode Island.
"[Devan's] laser-focused," Magill said. "He lives and breathes track and field. He's always asking what we're doing next week. He's always thinking ahead."
And while Kipyego wants to become a sub-four-minute miler, an All-American and possibly a national champion, his immediate attention turns to succeeding at the Trials of Miles.
"It's not gonna be easy, but hopefully, we pull through," Kipyego said of his expectations for Track Night NYC. "It's going to be paced, and it's going to be some great guys out there."
His talent is undeniable, but the transition from a little-known-runner to one of the nation's top names in such a short time has caught Kipyego by surprise. And he knows he still has work to do to reach higher heights.
"Everybody knew me as Darius' little brother," Devan said. "Now I'm kind of having a name for myself, which is cool in a way, but it's a little bit weird because I used to be called by this name, and now people are calling me 'Dev.' It's changed a lot."