Clayton Murphy, Pan Am Games 2015, www.teamusa.org/Getty Images
Clayton Murphy’s move in the first round of the 800 meters has to be seen to be believed. He ran into lane 3 and then, got into the battle to move on! Which he did. This young man has taken nine seconds off his 800 meter PB in 18 months!
Here is Elliott Denman’s praise of the young 800 meter runner…
The Clayton Murphy story…
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
BEIJING – It’s been five and a half decades since a guy named Murphy represented the
USA in the 800 meters on the global track and field stage.
That, of course, was Tom, the well-remembered (by the fans of a certain vintage)
Manhattan College graduate who ran for the gold (and got it) at the Pan American Games of
1959 in Chicago, and then ran the two-lapper at the Rome Olympic Games of 1960.
At long last, another Murphy is making 800-meter news for Team USA.
Welcome to the headlines, Mr. Clayton Murphy, the suddenly-spotlighted rising junior at
The University of Akron.
Just one of three USA entries in the opening round of the 800 in the 15th edition of the
World Track and Field Championships, Saturday morning at Bird’s Nest Stadium, got to the Sunday night semifinals here by the auto-qualifier route, by placing 1, 2 or 3.
That was Clayton Murphy,with his wise-beyond-his-years piece of strategic running that got him home third in the second of six heats in 1:48.08.
Teammate Erik Sowinski was a lot faster, at 1:46.63, but was just fourth in his heat and had to advance as one of the six “next fastest” in the 45-runner field.
Not so fortunate was the other USA standard-bearer, Casimir Loxsom, who “took out” the opening section from the gun, got caught up in heavy traffic and some big-time jostling, and wound up an “out of it” sixth in 1:48.97.
So Clayton Murphy becomes “a story” for the second time in two weeks.
He’s only here because Nick Symmonds isn’t.
When National Champion Symmonds opted out of the Beijing trip, rather than controversially agree to USATF’s clothing stipulations – oh, it’s a long story – the door swung wide open for Murphy, the fourth-place finisher in the USA Nationals.
And he took every advantage of that golden opportunity with his solid performance at the
Famed Bird’s Nest Saturday morning. Then he said all the politically-correct things as he
ventured post-race through the mixed zone.
“Nick’s a great friend,” said Murphy. “I think he’d have been a real asset to this team.”
But if that asset (Symmonds) was here, this other one (Murphy) would not.
So all Murphy has to do now is run one more brilliant two laps and this
big-time-underdog-makes-good story gets to live on another two days.
Symmonds had made three consecutive World Outdoor finals – each one better than its
predecessor – placing sixth at Berlin in 2009, fifth at Daegu in 2011, and second (back of
Ethiopia’s Mohamed Aman) at Moscow in 2013.
Now, though, he’s just an interesting sidebar to those who elected to be here.
“Akron track has really been coming of age the last 5-10 years, and I’m very happy to part of all that,” he said.
Biggest Zips’ presence here, though, continues be the high-flying Shawn Barber,
pole vaulting for the heights (and a huge chance at a medal) for Canada.
“Dennis Mitchell (no/no/no, he’s not the famed/and controversial Olympic sprinter/relay coach of the same name) came in (as Akron coach) and took a took a program that had been average to great,” said Murphy.
“We had, I think, the seventh most people who qualified for the preliminary round of the (outdoor) NCAA’s. We’re really strong on the conference level and now we’re getting strong on the national level.”
And now they can think internationally around the University of Akron campus.
With two full varsity seasons to go, Clayton Murphy, for sure, will be a big part of the Zips’ continuing progress.
As a true sophomore – who marked his 20th birthday on Feb. 26th – Murphy has had a superlative 2015 campaign.
After some solid cross country, he claimed third places in the NCAA 800 finals both indoors and outdoors. He got his mile time down to 4:00.39 and his 1500-meter best down to 3:40.69.
Heading back to Eugene for the USATF Nationals, he cut his 800 PR three straight times there, finally down to that 1:45.59 back of Symmonds, Sowinski and Loxsom.
With no Worlds in sight, he leaped at the chance to run at the Pan American Games in Toronto and came through for a big win in 1:47.19 (note: 56 years after Tom Murphy’s own Pan Am win), and followed it up with a silver-medal performance in the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships in Costa Rica.
By all expectations, that NACAC race should have marked the end of his long season.
But now it’s not that at all.
Twenty-four men are still alive in the Worlds 800 – Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich led all qualifiers in 1:45.83; 2015 world leader Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina breezed in 1:46.12; world defender Aman went ahead in 1:47.87; world record-holding and 2011 World champion David Rudisha of Kenya jogged a 1:48:31 qualifier – and with all these celebrities of the two-lap game is the longest-shot of all.
Clayton Murphy’s home town is Tri-Village, Indiana, adjacent to Richmond, Indiana.
And that’s the exact location of the Eastern-Central time zone border.
So, in a sense, kids out of the Tri-Village/Richmond vicinity, never really do know
what time it is.
And that sums up the Clayton Murphy story, too.
He doesn’t know that he shouldn’t be here.
But, one way or another, he’s having the time of his life.