Sam Rubin

Sprinting across the finish line in first place at the HEPS Championships this November, Kayley DeLay ’21 cemented a momentous season, building upon past successes.

DeLay consistently outran her competition this fall, winning race after race as she led the Bulldogs during their successful cross country season. DeLay began her career as a Bulldog two years ago and has been an invaluable asset to the team ever since. As a first year, she was nominated for second-team All-Ivy, the first of many notable cross country accolades. DeLay’s finishing times steadily improved as a sophomore, setting new personal records in the 3000-meter run, the mile and the steeplechase. Recently, as DeLay strode across the finish line at Van Cortlandt Park, she was crowned the 2019 Ivy League champion.

“There were many highlights from this season!” Delay said. “Winning HEPS was exhilarating, and I felt so lucky to share that with my teammates and family. I am proud to say I had the best season of my life and got to leave almost every meet happier than the last.”

DeLay’s ability as an athlete is unquestionable. Although she only began seriously running in ninth grade, DeLay is driven, passionate and eager about the sport. Despite her late start as a runner, DeLay has led the league this year. Her positive mentality and dedication to running greatly contributed to her success, and this season was her best yet. The results speak for themselves.

DeLay stole the show this fall, winning the season opener and putting the Bulldogs on an upward trajectory. In the Harvard-Yale season opener, DeLay claimed victory, setting the tone for a successful season to come.

At Panorama farms, DeLay ran her best six-kilometer race with a time of 20:46.5, placing first amongst her teammates. A few weeks later at Pre-Nationals, DeLay set a new personal record in the six-kilometer race by 15 seconds (20:31), passing over 70 people on her way to the finish line.

However, winning HEPS was DeLay’s most impressive victory. Sprinting past an opponent in the final 400 meters and crossing the finish line before swaths of talented runners, DeLay’s championship earned her First-Team All-Ivy honors. In the last race of the year at NCAA Regionals, DeLay finished in 19th place with another personal best 6k time of 20:07.5, earning her elusive All-Region honors.

In addition to her athletic feats, DeLay is also an admired leader and a teammate. She contributes to the team both on the course and behind the scenes. She possesses admirable humility, and those around DeLay respect her for a variety of reasons. Training partner Jane Miller ’20 commented on DeLay’s constant excitement about everyone else’s successes in spite of her own personal achievements.

“She is incredibly inspiring to me and the rest of our team,” Miller said. “She’s someone to look up to, not just because she’s arguably the fastest runner in the Ivy League, but because of her kindness, work ethic and humor as well. So to be able to bring all of that to the table just has a really huge, positive effect on our whole team.”

As head coach Taryn Sheehan explained, the women’s cross country team has created a supportive yet competitive environment that is conducive to athletic growth. The runners often spur each other on, raising the standard of the whole team.

Although DeLay also noted the importance of practice, she provided a more lighthearted reason than the one given by her coach – her teammates.

“I love showing up to practice everyday knowing I am going to be greeted by goofy, strange, beautiful friends of mine,” DeLay said. “Spending all afternoon and going to dinner with my teammates is the highlight of my everyday. Whether it’s “Theme-day Thursday,” “Fun Sock Monday” or just a typically weird day with my teammates, we are simultaneously serious and silly.”

This team dynamic is evidently an effective one, as both DeLay and her teammates have made significant progress this season.

Coach Sheehan commented on DeLay’s work ethic and attention to detail as key factors of her fantastic season. The Bulldog’s cross country star was not handed success. Rather, she put in work and overcame obstacles. Now, DeLay is recognized as a formidable runner on the collegiate scene as well as one of the best in the Ivy league.

“This fall really provided huge opportunities for Kayley to move into an elite level of competition,” coach Sheehan said. “Not only did she have to adjust to a new coach but she had to learn how to handle the expectations of being one of the best runners in the league. A lot of people think being good is easy but they do not realize that being an elite level athlete comes with a different set of challenges. I think this fall will prove to be a pivotal point for Kayley’s career and I am really excited for her to continue to grow this track season.”

The indoor season is right around the corner, and DeLay is bound to impress yet again.

Rehan Melwani | rehan.melwani@yale.edu