PAW Devan Kipyego wins state title

St. Raphael Academy junior Devan Kipyego has the final 100 yards of last Saturday afternoon’s state championship race all to himself as he gets ready to win it in a time of 15:32.30. Kipyego became the fourth runner in the program’s history to capture the featured 3.1-mile race.

GLOCESTER – Devan Kipyego’s sophomore season on the St. Raphael Academy boys’ cross country team ended the way no runner would want to finish one – in a walking boot.

While the Saints, who had been led by Kipyego’s older brother, Iowa State University freshman Darius Kipyego, were hard at work placing sixth at the state championship meet for the second year in a row, Kipyego was reduced to a mere spectator, no thanks to an injury he suffered as a player on his other team that fall, the school’s boys’ soccer squad.

But this year, Kipyego kept his soccer cleats in the back of his closest and focused on putting together one of the greatest seasons by an SRA harrier, and a week after taking the Class C title, Kipyego became the first Saints runner in two decades to win a state crown at last Saturday afternoon’s RIIL Championships at Ponaganset High’s 3.1-mile course.

Thanks to a strong kick in the final mile, the SRA junior topped a field of 146 runners by turning in a superb time of 15:32.30 that outdistanced the runner-up finisher, Cumberland High senior Henry Dennen, by more than nine seconds.

Kipyego and Dennen were part of a competitive field that included the only three runners to break 16 minutes at the previous weekend’s class meet, La Salle Academy seniors (and Cumberland natives) Jack Casey and Adam Thibodeau and North Kingstown High junior Jackson Borge.

But Kipyego, who faced little competition in capturing the Class C title in a time of 16:25.70, and his head coach, Chris Magill, had a game plan up their sleeves that paid dividends after the two-mile mark.

“We discussed before the race what we were going to do,” noted Kipyego, whose joins Neil Butler (Class of 1988), Scott Palumbo (1990), and Garrett Vaslet (2001) as the boys' program’s state champions. “He said if I’m going to make a move, I have to go out hard, and that’s what I did.”

Kipyego’s time shattered the SRA record for the fastest clocking on Ponaganset’s course – Darius Kipyego broke the previous mark at the 2019 state meet with his time of 15:56.43. It was also the 17th fastest time ever recorded on the legendary course – the next six finishers also cracked the course’s all-time top 100 times with their outstanding finishes.

“This is a tremendous moment for him and our program,” added Magill. “To have an individual state champion is just amazing.”

Unfortunately for the Saints, Kipyego’s marvelous victory alone couldn’t fetch them another trip to Saturday’s New England Championships in Thetford, Vt. With senior Jack Pereira unable to compete because of an injury, the Saints ended up in 11th place in the team standings with 260 points, which was 54 away from cracking the top six places and an automatic bid to the meet.

Junior Pedro Mayol, who will join Kipyego as an individual at the New England meet, placed 32nd in 16:51.36, but only two other SRA runners were able to crack the top 75, as senior Pat MacDonald took 62nd place in 17:36.57 and junior Andrew Worden finished 72nd in 17:48.92.

“The team ran well – we were just shorthanded,” said Magill. “Jack has been our number 2-3 guy all season, so it is what it is. But I thought the boys that toed the line ran well, and that’s all you can ask for. And we had a number of PRs, which were obviously highlighted by Devan’s.”

Also taking 85th place in a time of 18:02.07 was Shea High junior Joel DaCruz.

In the girls’ meet, the Saints, who were making their first appearance as a team in four years, was led by sophomore Chandaniey Boyce, who took 67th place in 21:37.88.

“The girls’ team ran great,” remarked Magill. “They all ran their best times of the season. I’m proud of both the boys and the girls and what they did today. I’m very, very happy with their results. We had a number of kids who toed the line who were underclassmen, so I feel the future is bright for both teams.”

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