NCAA track and field: IUPUI's Robert Murphy inspires and competes at NCAA outdoor championships
EUGENE, Ore. — If you were to walk around Hayward Field on Wednesday, you would see a proud group of people dressed in crimson, representing IUPUI.
They spent their free time exploring beautiful Oregon, but on Wednesday you could find them taking in the special day. It was unique because this year at the 2017 NCAA outdoor track and field championships, Robert Murphy became the first track and field student-athlete to represent the university of the NCAA championships.
Those supporting Murphy included aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents. They could field their own track team.
They walked around Hayward Field taking photos of everything from signs of his name to anything with IUPUI on it — all while holding big snow cones.
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Around 5 p.m. PT, they assembled for the 3000-meter steeplechase — Murphy’s big moment. Last season, he missed qualifying for NCAAs by less than a second.
Murphy, who was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, has proven there is no limit to accomplishing your goals.
He said his goal was nothing more than to qualify to Eugene. He did. His start was strong, even leading for parts in the beginning, but he finished 22nd in 9 minutes, 10.92 seconds.
“It's not what I expected at all,” Murphy said. “I'm not terribly surprised. The whole season I was just like, 'To make it here. To make it here. To make it here.' That's pretty much all that was going through my head. I didn't have any special goal here. I knew I had to make top five to advance. I felt like I was close but I guess I was just burned out.”
The race didn’t go the way he planned, but the day meant much more.
When asked if he felt like an inspiration, he humbly said, “I really have no idea. If I am, great. If I'm not, I don't care to be known for that. It's not that important to me.”
Murphy concedes sports may not be his forte. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have an impact on his life.
“For as good as I am and how much I enjoy running, the sportsmanship isn't in me as much as I think other people,” Murphy said. “But I love running because it gets me in shape and builds my confidence, my work ethic. That's why I do it. It all started just doing it for fun. Suddenly doing great all of a sudden. Keep at it. Don't want to waste it.”
He hopes to continue running — perhaps competing in races for fun or maybe giving coaching a shot.
Despite having a squad of family members in Eugene, there were a few people missing: Murphy’s brother who lives in Scotland and his grandfather, Wayne, who passed away in January. Wednesday also marked his late grandfather’s birthday.
“It felt great they were here,” Murphy said of his support. “I wish I could have done better for their sake, but I guess you can't have a good day every day. That's kind of what my coaches were saying. It's true. We've had plenty of our athletes have those days. I just didn't think it was going to happen to me in a race like this. I thought being here would energize me to do pretty well, if not make the finals. But still."