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Best of U. ... Dominic Devaud
By Jessica Bernheim
UMBC Assistant Director of Athletic Communications
After the first day of the heptathlon at the 2010 IC4A Indoor Championships, UMBC senior Dominic Devaud, the America East champion in the event, sat in 10th place.
But he wasn’t worried. He knew his three strongest events were on the docket for day two.
The 55-meter hurdles were up first, and Devaud won the race by nearly a tenth of a second over his teammate, Keith Onto. Then came the pole vault, which he also won, clearing 4.70 meters.
Suddenly, he was in second place, trailing only
“If you’re not hyped for the 1,000, it can almost be like a death march at the end of a heptathlon,” Devaud said. “But at both conferences and IC4A’s, I finally had a reason to run fast. I wanted to win and I went out to run a hard race. Luckily, Keith (Onto) is a pretty good 1,000 runner and was able to help pace me. I just got behind him and stared at his back and tried to stay there the whole time.”
The strategy worked, as the
The athlete who won one of the hardest events in sports is also studying one of the hardest majors UMBC offers. Devaud will graduate later this month with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He has maintained a 3.61 grade-point average through his first seven semesters and has been accepted to UMBC’s mechanical engineering master’s program.
His accomplishments both on the track and in the classroom have not gone unnoticed, as he was named the 2008-09 America East Scholar-Athlete for indoor track and field, as well as UMBC’s Matt Skalsky Scholar-Athlete at the 2010 varsity awards banquet. In addition, he was selected to the 2009 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team.
“It’s nice to be recognized for working hard at both aspects of my career,” he said, acknowledging that academics are very important to him. “I came to college to get an education; that’s why I’m here. Next year, track is going to be done and I’m not going to be a track athlete anymore, I’m going to be an engineer. What I do in class will affect the rest of my life more than track will.”
Devaud said he was never concerned about being able to keep up his grades in such a demanding field while also performing at a high level on the track, despite some time-consuming design projects that come with more difficult upper-level classes.
“I do have to teach myself a lot on the side, but I’ve never really had an issue with time management,” he said. “I can make good use of the small time slots between classes and practice and get a lot of my homework done then. That way I’m free later on to just relax and hang out.”
Mechanical engineering was a natural fit for Devaud, who was always good at math and science and liked to play with Legos and his dad’s old Erector Sets at a young age. He remembers building a construction crane “that could move and lift stuff,” as well as some model cars.
“I was always into building things as a kid, just working with my hands,” he said.
As he got older, his projects got bigger. His father, who worked as a bicycle mechanic growing up, showed him how to fix and maintain his bikes. Then when he got to high school, his family bought a 1967 Pontiac GTO, which he and his dad worked on together to restore. He said his dream job is to work in automotive design.
“It’s the ultimate merging of form and function that make up a good car,” he said. “It’s fun to work with the mechanical components, but it’s even better if you can make it look good, too.”
After working on virtual reality software last summer, Devaud spent the past school year assisting Dr. Haijun Su, a UMBC professor who works with mechanisms in virtual reality and is currently designing a flapping-wing robot – or a “robotic bird,” as Devaud described it – for the air force. The micro air vehicle (MAV) will be used for reconnaissance, as it can enter enclosed spaces and hover. This summer, Devaud will accompany Dr. Su to
When Devaud returns to campus in the fall, he will take on the difficult role of graduate student-athlete, as he will attend grad school while completing his final year of eligibility in outdoor track and field.
He will continue to use his time management skills on the track, as well, as he must work on 10 unique skill sets while training for a heptathlon or decathlon, and he often also competes in the hurdles and pole vault individual events.
“Training for a multi is incredibly difficult,” he said. “You have to keep a good balance, because doing extra work for one (event) can often lead to neglecting another.”
He had a good role model, as his older brother, Charles, was a two-time America East champion in the decathlon at UMBC. Head coach David Bobb knew that the younger Devaud would be a star “if he had half the genes his brother had,” noting that Dominic is stronger than Charles at the hurdles and pole vault, two events with which decathletes often struggle. The brothers were only teammates for one year, but they trained together and pushed each other to do their best.
Without the natural sibling rivalry the last three years, Devaud said it is the overall experience of competing that drives him to succeed.
“I get to know the feeling of coming across the finish line after two days of competition knowing that I was the best one out there, but I also get to experience all the hard work and practice that goes into making that achievement possible,” he said. “I think it’s the day-to-day building blocks that make up the final goal that keep me going.”
Coach Bobb knows that Devaud will be successful in any of his future endeavors.
“He’s the quintessential student-athlete,” Bobb said. “He’s resilient on and off the track, and that will help him deal with adversity. With track and field, you can plan for things to go a certain way, but nine times out of 10 it doesn’t happen that way and you have to make adjustments on the fly.”
Devaud agrees that there is much that he can take from track into the classroom and vice versa.
“I’m passionate about both, so I bring a lot of the same mentalities to both,” he said. “I’m not the most talented person on the track or the smartest person in the classroom, but I’ve found that I can work hard to give myself an edge over most people.
“I’ve learned to take things in stride,” he continued. “Doing badly on an exam doesn’t mean you’re going to fail the class; you can continue to work hard the rest of the semester and bring your grades up. The same is true in a multi. If you mess up one event, it’s not the end of the meet; you can still go out and do your best to make up for any shortcomings.”