Downingtown >> Downingtown West senior Aislinn Devlin, the Daily Local News 2016 Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year, closed her high school career in style this fall, making a clean sweep of first place in the Ches-Mont League Championships, the District 1 Class 3A meet, and, lastly, the PIAA Championships on Nov. 5.
What made the state championship particularly sweet was that little step up the podium, considering Devlin finished second at states in 2015, just eight seconds behind the champion, Pennsbury senior Olivia Sargent. This time, she edged out North Allegheny junior Clara Savchik by two seconds to post a winning time of 17:44.
“I think how the race played out last year gave me the experience I needed to win this year,” said Devlin. “Last year I ran the whole race with Olivia Sargent and this year I was by myself until the last half mile. Last year I tried to drop Olivia on ‘Poop Out Hill,’ using pretty much everything I had left in the tank. This year I made sure to stay within myself going up that hill so that I could have a strong kick.
“When I turned the corner [this year] after ‘Poop Out,’ I turned it on and gave everything I had. I wanted it really bad. It was my best race of the season. The fact that I was able to keep composure during the race when I knew Clara Savchik was right behind me the last mile, and then to have a strong kick at the end gave me a lot of confidence from that race.”
One week earlier, Devlin finished first at the District 1 meet at Lehigh University by 28 seconds. She posted a mark of 17:12, with Unionville’s Anna Juul in second at 17:40. Ironically, Juul will be a cross-country teammate of Devlin’s next fall at Harvard University.
“I was excited to run fast at the district meet because Lehigh is always quick,” said Devlin. “I didn’t put any limits on myself and tried to take control of the race early. I remember it was pretty windy, so that wasn’t fun, but I knew everyone was running in the same conditions.
“The [District 1] meet was all about the team. We knew we had a shot at making states, by getting in top five. When we found out we came in second, it was one of the greatest feelings. I was so proud of all [our] girls, and it was so special to finally achieve a goal — and wish — that I have had since I was a freshman.”
The Ches-Mont Championships were held on a windy day, too, but that didn’t stop Devlin, who posted a 17:43, 40 seconds ahead of the closest finisher.
“My most vivid memory from the Ches-Mont championship this year is how windy it was,” said Devlin. “There was no break from it; the first stretch was just a straight headwind similar to the back part of the course. I was also just really excited to race because the only other 5K we had run was the Carlisle Invitational about a month before. We knew our team could do well, so it was a fun team atmosphere.”
As a youngster, Devlin was a soccer player, but even then knew that she would eventually turn to competitive running. Her older brother Quinn ran for Downingtown West, and, later, Columbia University.
“I always knew I would run track in middle school and then fully commit to running in high school,” said Devlin. “Running is in my family, so it was natural. But, I would say the first thing that turned on a switch for me, where I was like, okay, I really want to train, was in seventh grade when all I wanted was to beat one of my friends in the Chester County Turkey Trot. He was also a soccer player. We went back and forth a couple of times during the race, but I ended up beating him.”
Devlin’s normal routine the morning of a race is to do a 10-minute shake-out run about 1 1/2 hours before her warmup session. Her warmup includes some basic drills and a few long strides. In addition, Devlin, a National Honor Society member, always talks to her coach before races about the race plan.
“We discuss race scenarios and talk about how things might play out,” said Devlin. “But, we always leave the discussion with racing without putting limits on myself. I believe in going into any race without limits about what I can achieve.”
Fun facts – Aislinn Devlin
Favorite TV shows: Gilmore Girls, Friends, Dancing With the Stars.
Favorite movie: Sweet Home Alabama.
Favorite athletes: Evan Jager and Jenny Simpson.
Favorite pre-race pump-up song: Flawless Remix by Beyonce ft. Nicki Minaj.
Favorite running shoe: “I have been running in Saucony Ride 7’s since 10th grade and have just recently started wearing the Ride 9’s. I didn’t like the 8’s so I ordered all the 7’s in my size I could pretty much find, but, fortunately, I did like the 9’s. The rides are not super cushy which I like and they’re not too light; there’s a lot to them which I like. I wear New Balance Zante’s to work out in as my lightweight trainers. I like having a little bit of a lighter shoe for workouts.”
Favorite team: “The Downingtown West Girls Cross Country Team!”
Favorite place to visit: Lake Tahoe.
Favorite pre-race meal: Salmon, quinoa and grilled zucchini.
Person I most admire: “My brother Quinn, who also ran for Downingtown West and then Columbia University. He is the coolest person I know. He is truly authentic. He is working hard in New York City to make his dreams come true with his band Quinn Devlin and Bridge Street Kings — my favorite band after Taylor Swift. Sorry Quinn.”