Hartford, Conn. – In a dusty high school gym located in the small town of Peabody, Mass., the names of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School’s greatest athletes line the walls beside league championship banners and record-setting track times. Over a decade ago, a young girl from Danvers, a town just 15 minutes south, walked into the dimly-lit gym with her eyes scrolling through the many names and faces of athletes past and present. Her family directs her attention to one name in particular, her aunt, Kristen Foley, whose is remembered as the school’s furthest javelin thrower. In that moment, Trinity women’s track and field senior Devan Walsh knew exactly what she wanted to do: give everything she could to try to beat it.
Since her days as a youth, Walsh attributes her passion for athletics and competitive drive to her two aunts, Kristen and Kim Foley. The former, a competitive javelin thrower and now assistant athletic director at William Paterson University, and the latter, a basketball player who had a successful stint playing overseas in Australia, had not only introduced Walsh into the world of athletics, but also continued to fill a role as coach, mentor, and friend throughout her high school and collegiate competitions.
“They were always there for me,” remembers Walsh. “They pushed me to continue both basketball and javelin and even offered to help me practice.” To those that know her well, Walsh has always been a talented two-sport athlete. In high school, she boasted numerous basketball accolades, from captaining her school team during her junior and senior year to playing on the MCW Stars AAU basketball team endorsed by NBA Orlando Magic player Michael-Carter Williams. In the spring, Walsh continued to push herself under the guidance of her two aunts, and making them and herself proud when she became the State Champion javelin thrower.
Trinity Head Track and Field Coach John Michael Mason was also following Walsh's javelin success closely with an eye on how she could be a great addition to the Bantam squad. Looking back at her time under Mason’s guidance, Walsh is most reminiscent of his caring nature and willingness to go the extra mile for his team. “Coach Mason worked relentlessly to get me into Trinity and cares immensely about each of his athletes,” she recalls. “He would do anything for us.”
Equally, Coach Mason has been thoroughly impressed with Walsh. Since 2016, she has consistently made her mark on Trinity's track and field program as not just an impressive thrower, but an unrivaled competitor. “Devan is a true competitor in the sense that she combines constant preparation with game day energy,” says Mason. “She never takes days off, and when she has the chance to compete, she has very high expectations of herself to perform.”
It’s precisely this competitive drive that has pushed Walsh to earn an abundance of track and field accolades, including All-New England Open, All-NESCAC, and All-Region honors, in addition to her 2019 New England Open Outdoor Championship title that was accompanied by an appearance in the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships that spring.
Success in javelin was not always guaranteed to Walsh, especially early on in her collegiate career. Unsatisfied with her performances during her rookie season and to the surprise of her track coaches and teammates, she decided to pursue basketball as well once again. “I am a very competitive person,” Walsh asserts. “I wasn’t performing as well as I could and going back to basketball helped me with that competitiveness.” Walsh phoned her aunts, who not only encouraged her to join the Trinity women’s basketball team, but also offered to make the trip to Danvers to help Walsh practice that next weekend.
After gaining the approval of her track coaches, Walsh once again ventured into the difficult world of a two-sport athlete. Walsh acknowledges that competing in two seasons is no easy feat, especially since the spring track schedule started up immediately follow the basketball campaign. Walsh notes that she only had three days in between the last day of hoops and her first day of javelin practice.
She is also conscious that each sport requires its own set of motivations. “Javelin can be difficult because it’s all on me. The motivation to train must come from myself,” Walsh says. “In basketball my team depends on me and they push me hard each practice.”
Basketball, like javelin, ended up being yet another athletic success for Walsh. After playing two seasons with the Bantams, she was elected tri-captain by her teammates for her senior year. The team performed well, finishing with a regular season record of 16-9 and making the NESCAC Championship Tournament for the third year in a row. Most recently, Walsh was awarded the Trinity women's basketball team's Robin L. Sheppard Award . In reflecting on her basketball experience at Trinity, Walsh notes, "having an all-female coaching staff of strong women has helped me grow so much."
“It will be hard swallowing the fact that I don’t get to compete my senior season,” she laments. Still grappling with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walsh, like all spring NCAA athletes, is deeply disappointed her javelin events were cancelled this spring. Confident in her preparation for the 2020 season, Walsh was primed to beat the school record for the javelin throw and would have been among the nation's top ten in her signature event. These sorts of goals are just what Walsh set out to accomplish since when she first laid eyes on her aunt’s high school javelin mark. Coach Mason would have expected nothing less. “When she came in I knew she could go to Nationals,” he says. “That was the goal since day one.”
In addition to her impressive athletic accomplishments, Walsh has been impressive academic at Trinity. During the free time in her schedule (which is far and few between), she volunteers as a Crisis Text Line counselor four hours every week. In this role, Walsh speaks with individuals who are going through arduous times in their lives, building rapport and offering emotional support to those who call in. Professor Jan Lloyd, Walsh’s academic advisor, recommended Walsh for the position alongside her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science and economics in May.
As a collegiate athlete reflecting on her time at Trinity, Walsh says there is much for her to feel proud about. A competitive two-sport athlete who has earned the trust and appreciation of coaches and players alike, Walsh has certainly made her mark on Trinity athletics. More importantly she recognizes her role outside of competitive sports, and is always willing to give support to those who need it the most. In a journey that started in a dusty gym in Peabody with a starry-eyed Walsh in awe over the accomplishments of her aunt, Walsh may soon have her name engraved into the walls of Trinity Ferris Athletic Center.