The Oregon Track and Field program has a long history of attracting top tier talent. It has been that way for a while, from the days of Bill Bowman and Steve Prefontaine. There was definitely a noticeable presence of current and former Ducks at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
After a disappointing end to the Men’s Cross Country season at the NCAA Cross Country Nationals, the team will look to the track to redeem themselves. I actually feel badly for runners who go against an angry Edward Cheserek, who missed the chance to win a forth consecutive NCAA D1 tittle.
The Women of Oregon, however, after being ranked twelfth in the country coming into the race, won by a single point over the University of Michigan! So how do the women follow up on this amazing accomplishment? By signing one of the top high school runners in the country.
Kate Murphy, a senior from Lake Braddock High School, Virginia, gave a verbal commitment to run for the Ducks earlier this October via Twitter.
Super excited to be apart of the duck family at the University of Oregon next year! GO DUCKS! 𞢀𞢀𞠀 pic.twitter.com/SmYxTrcBaG
— Kate Murphy (@trackmurph) October 12, 2016
This past Saturday, Head Coach Robert Johnson announced via GoDucks.com that Murphy, along with 10 other high school recruits had formally signed.
There are sometimes a lot of bluster and premature hyping when a big time recruit signs with a school, and when things don’t pan out the way the team wanted, it can get a little awkward. However, I don’t think that’s a likely scenario here.
Murphy is an exceptional runner. She’s actually making history, as her 4:07 1500m at the Adidas Boost Boston Games put her at number three all time for high schoolers. She’s right on par with some of the great pros of Track and Field, such as Mary Cain, formerly of the Nike Oregon Project, and Alexa Efraimson, winner of the 1500m in the 2014 World Junior Championships.
Murphy was not done with the 1500m after that race. That historic time qualified her for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trails. At the trials, she raced her way into the semifinals, and just missed the next qualifying spot by placing forth with a time of 4:14. After her race, in which she qualified for the semifinals, Murphy said in her post race interview, she felt comfortable racing from behind becasue, “I always have that extra gear at the end when I know I need to get a certain spot in order to advance.”
It’s hard to comprehend how talented the Oregon Track team will be next year, with both Katie Rainsberger and Murphy racing together in the 1500m. They have raced against each other last season, in the 3000m at the IAAF World Championships in Poland.
Rainsberger won while setting a new US junior record on an outdoor track by running 9:00.62. Murphy had a strong race, finishing twelfth with a time of 9:17. That’s not quite her best, but then again, the 1500m is her stronger event.
While watching footage of Murphy race, it’s easy to see where her strength lies: It’s her final kick. What makes her even more special is that she is strong enough to keep up with a fast pack, then use her phenomenal kick to beat the other runners. It sounds so simple, but you don’t often find those two qualities so greatly personified, especially in a distance runner. Watch her at the 2015 USATF Junior Outdoor Nationals, where she puts on a clinic in her 1500m race (starts at 1:52).
Another intriguing thing about Murphy is how young she is. She has already done so much: Olympic Trials, World and National Junior Championships, and state titles. And she is just now becoming an Oregon Duck. She is just 16 years old.
This past spring, Murphy won the 3000m at the USA Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championships by running a personal best in 9:10.51. That is the fifth-fastest time ever for a high schooler.
The combined talent of Rainsberger and Murphy will be a sight to behold on Historic Hayward Field next season. If you want to see how Murphy’s last year of high school cross country is going, watch her workout with her team in humid conditions in Virginia courtesy of MileSplit.
The future is bright for the Ducks!
Eugene, Oregon (From Half Moon Bay, CA)
Top Photo Credit: FloTrack