Tyler DeVault has run a difficult race in his collegiate career but has plans to blaze a new trail for the Tennessee men’s cross country team in 2006.
As a freshman Tyler was not even in Knoxville, instead he was running for the West Virginia Mountaineers. However, things changed in 2003 when West Virginia disbanded their team and left their players out in the cold.
"When it first happened I was in shock, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stop running or if I was going to go somewhere else," DeVault said.
DeVault and a few of his teammates stayed an extra year at West Virginia before they decided their next move. They paid for their own food and travel to continue training and competing in open races.
After scouting out potential universities he finally chose Tennessee where he has grown into the distinct leader. This offseason, coach George Watts left the captain position to be decided by team.
"We had a team vote, and it was almost unanimous, which really says a lot about Tyler and the impact he has had since he has been at Tennessee," Watts said.
DeVault’s leadership both on and off the track have impressed his peers and his coach.
"I think as a group the upperclassmen have done a really good job of including the freshman. Tyler has been like a big brother as have the other seniors," Watts said.
DeVault and his fellow seniors believe this will keep them driven to work hard throughout the season.
"We have a bunch of good freshman coming in. They’re ambitious, if we keep them motivated then it keeps us motivated to do well," DeVault said.
Expectations run high for both the team and DeVault, after his personal best time of 4 minutes, 8.44 seconds in the indoor mile at the SEC indoor championships in 2005.
"I have a goal this year of getting the school record in the indoor mile of 4:02.4 and the outdoor 1500 meters record at 3:41.2," DeVault said.
Watts said he would love to see Tyler break one of the records and believes he has a shot at doing so.
"The indoor record will be 30 years old this year so that would be great if he could go out and get it. The outdoor is about 13 or 14 years old, I coached that individual, it would be kinda neat for all of us if he did it," Watts said.
DeVault believes that the team has the capability to do well both in conference and in post season meets.
"If we don’t finish first or second in the conference then it’s unacceptable," Devault said. "I think we can also go to nationals and finish in the top 10."
DeVault faces a crossroad at the end of the year. He will graduate this year, but the Olympic trials leave him wondering if he should continue running after the season is over.
"If I do well this year and set the school record, the Olympic trials are only a year away. I wouldn’t put it past myself to stick around and try and give it a shot," DeVault said.
Watts believes that DeVault has the potential to do well after graduating.
"I think he could qualify for the Olympic trials and see how far it takes him," Watts said.
If DeVault did make the Olympic trials it would be a fitting ending for an athlete who once questioned whether he would ever race again.