DePaul Track & Field’s Shane Knanishu: five seasons of hard work, passion, records and now (hopefully) a championship


Kiersten Riedford

Graduate student Shane Knanishu broke his own mile time of 4:05 earlier this season at the GVSU Big Meet in Allendale, Mich. on Feb. 10.

Long, lanky limbs and a little over six feet with long hair and a mustache reminiscent of Hall & Oates, graduate student Shane Knanishu started running in sixth grade, when his friend and his friend’s father introduced him to it. 

They would run around the neighborhood a couple of times every week. From then on, Knanishu continued running throughout his life, first getting recognized at Batavia High School where he was a member of the cross country state championship in 2017 and all-state in track and field in 2018. 

After he joined DePaul University’s Track and Field team in 2018, he made huge contributions to the team both with strong individual performances and as a leader. A graduate student studying biology, Knanishu is in his fifth season with the team. 

“I’ve known Shane for about five years and he’s very dedicated, very principled,” said roommate and teammate Dominic Bruce. “You can tell from talking to him that long distance running is his thing, his passion. Leaders like Shane, it’s easy to be a part of a team with guys like him. It’s easy to be dedicated and want to get better when you surround yourself with others like that.”  

Currently, Knanishu holds DePaul’s record for the indoor mile. At the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Big Meet on Feb. 10, DePaul Track and Field’s last meet of the regular season, Shane Knanishu took home gold in the men’s mile with a time of 4:05.51. That time broke his old school record, which he set at the same meet last year, by about two seconds.  

“I thought it was nice to break the record, it indicated that the work and practice had been done,” Knanishu said. “My mindset for the GVSU meet was to just stay focused, shift away from focus on time. Right now, our sport is really time focused. Sure, I’d love to be the first guy to break four minutes for the mile at DePaul, but the reason we all play sports and participate is to compete and have fun competing.” 

During Knanishu’s first season at DePaul, his best mile time was 4:25.31, which shows a significant, gradual improvement from his first year, culminating in his breaking of the mile record. A mile may not seem that long in comparison to a marathon or as flashy as a 100-meter sprint, but running a fast mile is an achievement in its own right. 

“The mile is funny because everyone uses it as a benchmark,” said Associate Head Track and Field Coach Geoff Wayton. “When you talk about your mile time, you only have to say the first number of your time and that’ll decide whether or not people will be impressed. There’s always something about the 4-minute mile though, people love it. Shane is getting closer and closer to that point, but in my parents’ lifetime, the world thought a 4-minute mile would be impossible.”

Track and Field athletes are often known for their individual performances, their personal bests, and how that compares throughout all of history. No matter the distance, from a 100-meter sprint to a 10000-meter race, the finish is almost always a close competition, usually only being separated by a few seconds or even milliseconds. 

A two-second improvement in a tight race such as a mile over a year is noteworthy, despite it seeming like such a small interval. In almost every sport, seconds matter. 

“I feel like it’s easier to gauge your progression with running, I think that’s something very special about running, you can always see your time,” said Knanishu. “Running has allowed me to look at my nutrition, hydration, recovery, mental health and build a healthy foundation for those things. When I first joined the team, I was inspired by the guys around me, and I wanted to move up to the next level. Learning how to maintain myself constantly has helped me in many ways.”

When every second counts, a lot goes into deciding whether or not your body can perform at its peak. One of Knanishu’s favorite hobbies is cooking, which synergizes with his running. His favorite pre-meet meal is spicy Korean pork and bok choy with some sesame rice mixed with mushrooms and carrots. 

Both Bruce and Knanishu talked often about how running provided a nice structure to their lives due to the challenge and health benefits. The amount of sleep you get, what you eat and how you feel are all key factors when it comes to performing your best. Though there are many other factors at play as well, one of the most important is the people around you.  

“To be honest, I don’t think I found a passion for running until I got to DePaul,” Knanishu said. “The way the team was structured, their values and what they represented, really helped me grow. I remember freshman year, talking with [Dominic Bruce] about our futures, what we’re going to do in life and with running. It’s so great to look back now, I’m just thankful for all that my team and coaches have given me.”

Now, DePaul’s Track and Field team faces one of its biggest challenges of the postseason, the 2023 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 at the Dr. Conrad Worrill Indoor Track and Field Center. This event will start in the morning around 9 a.m. both days and will decide which school is the best out of the BIG EAST conference. 

At last year’s championships, Connecticut clinched both men’s and women’s team titles. For students and others who want to see the championships, there will be free transportation to and from the event. For details, look on the BIG EAST’s official webpage