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Clayton Murphy, Pan Am Games 2015, www.teamusa.org/Getty Images

Last year heads turned when University of Akron sophomore Clayton Murphy – who in 2013 had posted good, but not overwhelming, high school bests of 1:54.19 in 800m and 4:11.72 in the 1600m – improved his two-lap PR to 1:45.59 and clocked 4:00.39 for the mile. But it wasn’t simply his stop watch readings that drew attention, it was also the 2015 honors he won in and the way he won them. Combining quick, but even split pacing with a ferocious final straightway kick, Murphy captured last spring’s Drake Relays 800m crown, won 1500m titles at both the Mt. SAC and Longhorn Invitational, and finished 3rd in the 800m in both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships.

But the Zip middle distance specialist’s success spread beyond the collegiate ranks. After the NCAA season ended, Murphy spiked up for the USATF outdoor championships hoping only to advance out of the opening round and gain some valuable big stage experience. [quote] With 3 PR’s and aided by his scintillating come-from-behind final in 1:45.49, Murphy finished 4th in the 800m final – only .xx behind the winner Nick Symmonds. Donning his first USA singlet, the xx year old New Paris, Ohio native headed off to the Pan American Games where a perfectly-time Wottle-like drive over the final 200m earned him the gold medal [1:47.19] in his first international competition. Several weeks later, he was on the podium again for Team USA capturing 800m silver at NACAC global championships. But wait, there’s more. When Symmonds refused to sign the customary USATF Statement of Condition, the young middle distance star was quickly shuttled off to China where Murphy – surprisingly unexhausted – advanced through the first round of the World Championship 800m and narrowly missed making the final.

Proof that a string of terrific performances does not go unpunished, 2016 expectations for Clayton Murphy have been recalibrated upward. But what does the rising star have for a 2016 encore? With emerging skills in both the 800m and the 1500m, Murphy wisely wants to see which middle distance event suits him best. “Like I did last year, I plan on running at the same event at the NCAA [outdoor] and the Trials. I’ll take a couple of shots at running fast in the 1500m and also with the 800m and then kind of decide which event gives me the best chance to win an NCAA title and to make the Olympic team. It depends upon what fits me best and what shape I’m in.” “Whether it’s the 1500 or the 800, the goal is to run well on the third day [of competition] at the Olympic Trials,” explains Murphy who needs the Trials [3:38.00] and Olympic standard [3:36.20] in the 1500m, but already has bettered both standards [1:46.00] in the 800m. “To get to that point would require a little more mileage, a little tougher workouts, staying healthy, staying competitive, staying hungry about what my goals are, keep working with my coaches, keep laying out goals, and always looking forward and making sure that everything I do – even if it is just going to play a round of golf – is helping me achieve my goals.” Just two years ago, such goals seemed clearly out of reach for Murphy. But even with elevated 2016 expectations for the Akron junior, an NCAA title and a berth on the U.S. Olympic team might be the type of encore that would allow Clayton Murphy to take a bow.

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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