After spending two years at Santa Clara, University of Utah cross country senior Grayson Murphy decided she wanted to transfer to Utah. Murphy played soccer for most of her life before taking up running and choosing to come back to her hometown in 2016 because she wanted to attend a Pac-12 university to see where the sport could take her.
“She contacted us in her summer and said, “Hey, I’m looking to transfer home for my last two years,” Kepler said. “And more than anything she wanted an engineering program with a PhD program, so that was part of it, and the rest is history.”
Fast forward a year and a half later, and Murphy is one of the most decorated cross country and track runners to ever run for Utah. Murphy already earned All-American honors in both indoor and outdoor track before completing the trifecta this past weekend at NCAA Cross Country Championships. On Saturday, Murphy sailed to a No. 8 place finish at the meet, and while she earned her third All-American honors, it was her first one in cross country.
Last year, Utah qualified as a team for NCAA’s where Murphy was the top finisher, crossing the finish line in 53rd place, but this year she had to represent Utah by herself as the team failed to qualify. She credits her improvements from this past season to this season to her belief in herself.
“I think it’s just building confidence race after race and staying consistent,” Murphy said. “Being in the top 5 [in every race this season] helped me believe that I could finish a lot higher than 53rd.”
Neither the wet and muddy terrain of the course, nor the two hour early start time due to the weather seemed to phase Murphy as she went about her game plan with only one practice run on the course the day before the competition.
“She’s just a kid that’s not fazed by that stuff. She just wants to know where she’s supposed to go,” Kepler said. “And we picked spots where we could make moves.”
Murphy’s belief in herself came out during the race in a way it never had before as she found herself cheering herself on in the last leg of the course.
“I said out loud, which I’ve never done before, don’t give up, and I don’t know where that came from, it wasn’t me talking,” Murphy said. “I’ve never really spoken out loud to myself before, but I just put it all out there.”
Now that her collegiate cross country career is over, Murphy is looking forward to both indoor and outdoor track seasons, and even a professional career beyond that.
“She’s definitely a kid that I think is going to be able to have a very solid professional career and challenge to make some U.S. teams, whether that be a world championship team or Olympic team or otherwise,” Kepler said. “I think she’s going to have those opportunities. I think they’re right in front of her, she [has] just got to keep everything in perspective.”