Devin Henderson has earned a reputation as a hard worker over the last few years and the LaFayette senior will get an opportunity to continue to hone his talents as a runner after high school.
Henderson, the 2019 Walker County Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year, will be headed to Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. to join the Lions’ track and cross country programs after recently signing with the NAIA school.
“When I first started running, I didn’t think it would be a sport that I took seriously,” he explained. “But over time I started thinking, ‘this is something I could be really good at.’ I just feel blessed that now I have an opportunity to improve and compete at the next level.”
Improving is something that Henderson has done plenty of over the past few years.
After finishing with a season average of 19:13 as a sophomore, Henderson broke through as a junior. He cracked the 18-minute mark twice, once at the Walker County Championships (17:56) and again at the Region 6-AAAA Championships (17:48).
He would go on to improve on that this past season. He captured first place at the Walker County Championships (17:52), clocked a 17:39 in a race in Gainesville, enjoyed a season and career-best 17:26 at a meet at the Baylor School and finished fifth in the 6-AAAA meet (17:54) to punch an individual ticket to state for a second straight year.
Henderson credited a teammate, Josh Perea, for motivating him to get better.
“(Josh) brought out the best in me and, after that, I didn’t want to slow down,” he added. “(My) junior year is when I started thinking, ‘colleges are gonna start watching me and I’m more likely to get noticed running than as a soccer player.’ I started to push myself more after that.”
As it turned out, colleges were watching, specifically Bryan and head coach Josh Bradley, who eventually reached out with an offer.
“After visiting Bryan a few times, I think the thing that draws me to them, overall, is the atmosphere,” Henderson said. “As soon as I walked in, it felt like I was family. They give off good vibes and I really like that.
“I think my natural speed and my grit will be the key things that (will) help me and (that will) benefit the (Bryan) program,” he continued. “I think that’s why they chose me. I always want to improve.”
LaFayette cross country head coach Chris O’Neil called Henderson “an extremely talented young runner” and added that he believes Bryan will be “a great fit” for him.
“Once he gets on campus and his unlimited amount of energy is focused on running, the sky (will be) the limit,” he said. “(Devin) is a naturally fast athlete who also possesses the drive and pain threshold it takes to be a talented runner.
“Bryan is also going to be lucky to get the person of Devin Henderson. He’s a true leader, full of positive energy, and (he) will motivate those around him. Devin always has a smile on his face and he’ll be a positive force on their cross country team.”
Henderson said that he planned to major in mathematics in the hope of one day returning to LaFayette High as a teacher.