Ed Murphey Classic 800 and 1500

Ed Murphey Recap

A week ago, on Saturday evening near the corner of Walnut Grove and I-240 in Memphis, I finally got to experience something that I've missed since mid-March of this year.Before imaginations go wild here, I'm referring to a Track Meet.I know I'm writing this a week after the event and so it's not exactly breaking news!But it dawned on me that we had dozens of some of the best athletes in track and no local newspaper or media outlet covered the event.There were tons of articles about high school golf, football, even some about basketball that isn't even in season yet.But nothing really about cross country or the fact that so many fantastic athletes competed right here in our backyard.Anyways, here you go, back to the article.

Ok, so - If you're a fan of the TV show, Big Bang Theory, then you will understand the feeling I'm trying to describe here.Every Saturday night, the character of Sheldon Cooper, does his laundry at precisely 8:30pm.Every Thursday (I think), it's Chinese food night for the group.There's some other routines, but I'm not going to get into those, suffice it to say, the routines are deeply ingrained in this character's daily life.If something happens to disrupt those routines, Sheldon becomes a total mess... he shakes, gets confused, babbles on... you name it, he's a total mess.That's how it's been without track and field for me, and probably for most of us, this year!We've been expecting a track meet to happen... any meet... weekday meets, invitationals, sectionals, regionals, state... but it didn't happen.Nothing.I'm unsteady just thinking about it.We expected to go to a track meet this spring but didn't get that chance.

Going back to the first sentence in this article, and to be more specific, I'm referring to the annual Ed Murphey Classic at the CBHS track that has been put on the past few years.Normally you'll see hundreds of high school and middle school athletes running in heats of the 3200 or possibly a 4x1600 relay like last year and finishing off the evening with the high powered Elite athletes doing what they do best.Lightning fast running!This year, a small pole vault group lead by the area's top vaulting coach, Jason Vogt put on a short but impressive display early in the afternoon.The night before, Friday evening, another small group of high school 3200 runners, boys and girls combined, ran the distance with very little fanfare.And this year the Elite athletes put on a show in both the 800 and 1500 distances later Saturday evening.Finally, a track meet.Normalcy again, sort of.

First of all, let's start with the current situation we are in. The Ed Murphey this year didn't have spectators.But you probably already figured that part.If you weren't an official or covering the meet to some degree, you could not get in.And if you were a part of the meet, you had to go through all the protocols with the exposure verification, temperature checks, and keeping that mask on throughout.And of course, stay clear of everybody as much as possible all evening.The athletes were isolated during their warmups as well and moved off the track fairly quickly after their races.

It was an eerie feeling for sure watching the large open practice field sealed off exclusively for the athletes who were scattered all around by themselves warming up.An occasional coach giving last minute instructions.Basically empty.Not only were the races being taken seriously, all the precautions and protocols were as well.Everybody wanted to see the races on the track.Everything had to go just right.We all miss track.So every effort was made to be sure everybody was safe and the races would go on without issue.Whatever it takes to keep the excitement of a track meet in the forefront!Guess what, it went off perfectly!

Friday night's high school 3200 had a very small group and mostly just to keep things safe.It just wasn't open to everyone and to some degree now, that's pretty much how some races are going to go.For a while, small races and splitting up races into various heats is what it's going to take to be sure the sport of track and cross country stays thriving among the environment we are faced with lately.

Back in March of this calendar year, Jake Arnold of Houston ran the 3200 in 9:55.15 at the Early Bird Classic.That was probably the last track meet this past track season.However, he came back to the track on Saturday and ran a PR by exactly one second to post the fastest mark for the high school athletes in the race.Parker Russ was just behind him, and the only other athlete under 10, with a 9:57.47.Taking third spot was Jake Ryan with 10:05.59.On the girl's side, Allison Newman came on strong with a 10:49.80 to set a new PR herself.This St. George's senior didn't seem to lose a beat and proved she is certainly a top contender this year again.Arlington's Ann-Marie Braese also set a 3200 PR and heads into the cross country season on a strong note as well.Cross Country will be interesting this year, but as far as some strong competition, that is a certainty for sure!And finally, competition is back!

The Pro, or Elite, events went off with about as much excitement as you can imagine.With two heats in both the men's and women's 800 and a large field in both 1500's, this year's EM came out loud and clear.Ok, no spectators, so not really loud.As usual, Elvis was there too, or at least it looked like him in that shiny jacket, my mask was fogging up my glasses.

Anyways, all the lady's in the 800 ran sub 2:10's.Kaela Edwards took the win in 2:01.12 and Sammy Watson second with 2:02.41.Those were impressive races to watch.Well, yea, the whole field was impressive to watch!!Kaela came close to breaking under 2 minutes again but was just shy of her 1:59 best time.Watch her interview on the MYA recording of the live stream and you can't but help smile at the fact that she won that evening.Most of the field, actually, six out of the 12 finishers posted either a personal or seasonal best that evening.

The evening was fairly pleasant as far as the weather.Still warm and humid but little wind and considering its Memphis in August, not bad at all.The only breeze I felt was when the guys 800M pack, having five athletes under 1:50, ran past.Have you ever watch The Flash run in circles so fast that he sucks the air out of the inner part of the circle?Ok, maybe not quite that fast, but the image still sticks.It was also nice to see former Bartlett runner James Gilreath competing in what was a kind of home town race for him.Alex Amankwah and Robert Downs ran 1:46.67 and 1:46.98 to go one and two respectively.Yea, see... I told it was fast! The winning time was a season best for Alex as well.

The talent in the 1500 races was stacked as well.On the girl's side, several of the athletes cleared the 800 in a 2:12 or faster!Helen Schlachtenhaufen kept right on the shoulder of the pacer (Jazmine Fray) and went through the 800 point in just under 2:12 to set up her 4:08.39 win.Over on the guy's side, Graham Crawford kept the lead in the race holding the fastest splits throughout.He finished with a 3:40.34 which was just under a second ahead of Ryan Adams who was followed by a pretty closely packed group.

Since I've mostly wrote articles about the high school track and cross country in TN, how high school athletes do in some of these meets is always a huge interest to me. Sophia Gorriaran of Moses Brown School in Rhode Island is one remarkable high school athlete. She's run 55 in the 400.That's fast. Those of you that have been around track for a while will recognize the name Mary Decker. I was able to watch Mary run some races a while back.Mary Decker held the 800M girls record until I believe in 2017 when Sammy Watson broke it by the narrowest of margins (0.02).Mary Decker does currently hold the 800-yard record (or at least I think since that distance really hasn't been run for a while).Sophia ran a 202.90 at the EM Saturday.Just over a second from the new record in that distance. Ok, let that sink in a second.Now, deliberately blink your eyes.There you go, that's how close.That is more than remarkable.Oh yea, I forgot to mention, she's a sophomore now.


Memphis Youth Athletics has a recording of the evening on their YouTube site if you want to watch the races:  MYA Ed Murphey VIdeo

One thing you don't want to miss and that is the interview with Dave Wottle.If you don't know who that is, you will after you watch the interview.And if you really don't know who Dave Wottle is, then a spoiler alert here - He's the Olympic Gold Medalist for the 800 in the 1972 games!His race is what kept me involved in running since after high school track.Any of you that think just because you are behind during a portion of a race, you should never consider yourself out of it - always think positively and be confident in yourself and who knows how the end will turn out.Just don't give up!!

Watching these elite athletes run is spectacular... it's no jog in the park, that's for sure.And what makes it even better, these athletes appreciate the effort everyone has done to make these kinds of races happen.The Ed Murphey didn't have to be on the calendar, it didn't have to run.It's way more work than most people can imagine.Max Paquette and Nick Dwyer, as well as many others, worked hard to get this event in our backyard.While I was watching the vaulters do their thing, you can see Nick Dwyer going about his business - checking into everything, hanging the MYA banners around the track... doing just about whatever needed to get done!It's that kind of tireless effort that brings events like this to the forefront of the sport.It's what brings the sport to the spectators... ok, online, but still....It's folks like this that have track and field and cross country in their hearts.It's the same reason our hearts go out to them - thank you!!

On another, but somewhat related note.... At 11:55 PM central time on July 30, 2021, the fourth event of the day is Round 1 of the totally rescheduled Women's Olympic 800M race of the 2020 Olympiad.The next day, 5 minutes earlier is the Men's R1 of the 800M.Mark that on your calendars.And let's all just hope and pray... it all goes off as planned!

See you on the track... and at the State Cross Country meet on Thursday and Friday November 5th and 6th in Hendersonville (read about the changes here)  

Coach Ted