How Santa Clara Cross Country went viral

DeVon Dupree heard from long-lost friends, fellow Santa Clara students, and elementary school classmates. They all saw Dupree and his cross-country teammates’ creative and goofy head shots — from bowl haircuts to half-mustaches to bug-eyed expressions — and felt compelled to say Something.

Yet here’s how he knew the Broncos were truly a viral sensation: He heard from his mother. Dupree had shared the photos with Serita McPherson, but they took on a new dimension when a colleague showed her a Reddit post.

“OMG, you’re famous!” she texted him.

Well, yes, in a way.

Cross-country athletes rarely command attention, especially in the crowded Bay Area sports landscape. But the Santa Clara men’s cross-country team has carved out its own niche in fun, memorable, and unintentional ways.

The tradition dates back at least eight years, beginning with a few runners growing their facial hair for the annual ritual of team and individual photos. More and more athletes have gotten into it over the years.

This year, Harvey Chilcott got a bowl cut and a cheese mustache. Oliver Branham-Upton let his hair grow super long and curly, with a Fu Manchu. Spencer Fischer paired his mustache with hair on either side of his face, sort of a mix of mutton chops and Victorian times.

EJ Odocayen Cruz took a minimalist approach: a thin, half-but otherwise clean-shaven mustache (with thick, wavy black hair).

“We thought it was a great team tradition and good cohesion,” said Chilcott, a senior from Tasmania. “We consulted each other during the summer to ask how the mustache was doing. It was supposed to be a prank for family and friends, and then this year it just blew up.

Running news-focused media outlet Citius Mag picked up the head shots and sent them bouncing around in the digital world. They quickly spread on Twitter, Tik Tok and Instagram.

Santa Clara Cross Country has suddenly become a social media phenomenon. USA Today made a story, as did some Bay Area TV stations.

“We were just amazed,” Chilcott said. “We absolutely did not expect it at all.”

There’s a story behind Chilcott’s incredible bowl/mullet combo. He enlisted Dupree to give him the haircut outside of their adjacent houses, even though Dupree had no experience as a stylist.

But he had scissors and a bowl — yes, he literally put the bowl over Chilcott’s head to shape his new “do” — and got to work.

Two other teammates, Tommy Rogers and Kyle Berg, helped Dupree. He was nervous at first, especially with several other members of the cross-country team watching, but he also knew that Chilcott – known as the “Tasmanian Devil” for his free-spirited personality – would follow the result. .

“I think it’s pretty funny,” Dupree said. “I said to Harvey, ‘I don’t know how much you want to walk around like this. “”

And how did Chilcott embrace his distinctive new look?

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” he said.

Several people have told Chilcott that he looks like Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. On the way to Wednesday’s phone interview with The Chronicle, three people joked to Chilcott about his sudden fame. A high school student sent him a direct message on Instagram, saying he had made Chilcott his profile picture.

That fame is fleeting, he realizes, but for him, the photos make the anonymous and mostly unheralded college athletes stand out more.

“It shows that we’re light-hearted people and like to have fun,” Chilcott said. “We weren’t trying to be viral hits, that was never the goal. But it shows that we’re just kind and lovable.

Ron Kroichick is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ronkroichick