Rewind nearly a year ago to last spring’s state track and field meet.
Meridian’s relay teams envisioned finishing the year in style, placing high or perhaps bringing home a state championship in the 4x100, 4x200 or 4x400.
The thought was realistic, especially with a talented crop of sprinters that included upperclassmen Janessa Murphy, Taylor Lunde and McKenzie Roque and speedy freshmen Payton Lunde and Katelyne Zucati.
But the group’s bid in the 4x100 was abruptly cut short during prelims when one of the girls ran outside her zone. A disqualification followed, heartbreak ensued.
The mishap could have produced a snowball effect — a seed planting just enough doubt in the heads of the relay teams’ members to carry over and affect the rest of the weekend’s races.
Murphy, then a junior, didn’t offer any earth-shattering words of wisdom, imploring the team to turn the page, but how she handled the situation, and more importantly how the relay group responded, exhibited Murphy’s leadership. It illustrated why she’s been entrusted as a team captain in each of the three sports (soccer, basketball and track and field) she’s played her senior year.
“That was hard for us,” Murphy admitted in a phone interview, recalling the incident. “Me and one of the other girls, she was a senior, Taylor Lunde. We got together and talked about it, and we knew since we had two younger girls — they were both freshmen that year — they would take it harder than I was going to, so I just think we kept it positive for them.”
Murphy and Meridian went on to place second in state in the 4x200 before capping the meet with a new Class 1A state record in 4x400, winning a title in 3 minutes, 59.83 seconds.
In three weeks Murphy likely will be heading back to Cheney for the state track and field championships and will get the chance to cement her legacy as one of Meridian’s top girls’ track and field athletes in program history.
She already owns school records in the long jump (17 feet, 11.75 inches), 4x200 and 4x400, and ranks second in the 300 hurdles (48.14), second in the 400 (59.33) and third in the 200 (26.48).
Trojans track and field coach Patrick Ames endorsed Murphy with all the accompanying praise typical for a standout prep athlete — unmatched work ethic, great competitor, tremendous leader.
“She is just rock-solid,” Ames said in a phone interview, “and probably equally important is the way she competes in races. She is such a great example for younger kids, and that is a girl who is part of a state championship relay team last year and earned three third-place or higher medals as a junior.”
But what’s truly impressive about Murphy is her ability to juggle everything in life she casts upon herself and the standard she holds herself to.
The Meridian senior, with the exception of her freshman year, competed each sport season. She’s competed in horseback riding the past 14 years and along with her horse, Rope, she’s made state four straight times. Murphy’s a member of the school’s ASB and takes a demanding academic course load that includes multiple advance placement classes.
“It takes a special kid to play three sports and excel in all of them and not only excel but be a leader in those,” Ames said. “She was a captain in those, which shows you how respected she is as a person and an athlete at Meridian.”
Still, she finds time to train in the myriad of events she happens to be so skilled in.
In fact, Murphy’s found herself in a unique predicament this spring.
Track and field athletes are only allowed to compete in four postseason events. Just so happens Murphy could thrive in six or seven. That presents Murphy and Ames a tough decision to make before the Class 1A Sub-District meet on Wednesday and Friday, May 13 and 15, at King’s.
Long jump is Murphy’s top event, and she would be a strong contributor to each of Meridian’s three relays. She’s also great in the 200 and 400, and the second time she finished the 300 hurdles this spring, her 48.14 was the second fastest in school history.
Whichever events Murphy fills her meet with, past evidence suggests she’ll be at her best. She’s the breed of athlete that rises up in the biggest moments.
Murphy’s 17-7.25 mark in the long jump at the state meet last year was her personal best to that point in her career. It landed her a third-place medal. Also, Meridian’s state win in the 4x400 not only was a state record, it came against Lynden Christian — a team Ames estimated had previously beaten Meridian each of the eight or nine times they raced together.
Certainly Murphy will be looking to add to her medal collection come the end of May, but the soon-to-be Washington State Cougar mostly wants to further break her long jump record and surpass the 18-foot mark.
“Senior year, I know it’s my last go-round,” Murphy said. “I’m really trying to make it to state in all four events, two relays, whatever I can get into. Long jump record, I broke my record again this year, and now I’m trying to get over 18 feet. I’m still going to be competitive, but mainly I want to get over my own personal goal.”