I’ve learned to take responsibility for all of my own actions, and not let my successes or failures define me. —Grayson Murphy
SALT LAKE CITY — If it wasn’t for Grayson Murphy’s stubborn streak, she’d have walked away from cross-country after that first practice and the University of Utah would be without its two-time All-American.
“I was definitely one of the worst, if not the worst person on the team,” said the West High graduate, laughing. “I had no training. I knew that. I’m really competitive and very stubborn and I always want to do my best. I knew that wasn’t my best, and I was going to work like a dog until I did. I usually don’t discourage easily.” Santa Clara College let her walk on as a track athlete because there was a male runner who also wanted to run, and Title IX requirements offered both students the opportunity.
“They wanted the guy on the team,” she said, “so they let me on as well.”
Murphy’s running career began after her soccer career fizzled. Ranked No. 6 individually by FloTrack this season, she was playing soccer on scholarship at Sweet Briar College in 2013 but decided she was burned out on the sport and unhappy at the school.
“I just wasn’t enjoying playing anymore,” she said. “I wanted to transfer and start from scratch. But I still wanted to be involved in athletics. It’s always been such a huge part of my life.”
She transferred to Santa Clara and walked on to the track team. It was there that she learned they’d also be running cross-country for the school.
“I’d been playing soccer, which was sprinting, so I assumed I’d be doing middle distance like the 400 and 800,” she said, noting those were the only two races she’d ever run in high school. “Then I found out track runners also ran cross-country, and that’s when they told me I’d be running five and six kilometers. That kind of threw me for a loop. But I said, ‘I guess I’ll give it a shot.’”
As it turns out, she had talent.
“I was rapidly developing in running, and maybe even faster than my teammates, and it got to a point where I thought, maybe I could make something of this,” she said. “I wanted to be on a team that was more serious and was going to push me.”
After two successful track seasons at Santa Clara, she transferred to Utah where she has flourished. She led the Utes to a 53rd-place finish at the NCAA championships last season, and earned all region honors with an 18th-place finish at the Mountain Region Championships. She finished 12th at the 2016 Pac-12 Championships and earned All-American honors in indoor track and outdoor track (3,000-meter steeplechase).
“She certainly has a unique story,” said Utah head coach Kyle Kepler. “We’re fortunate to have her in our program. She’s continued to improve, and she’s managed the stress and pressure about as well as you could hope.”
The fact that her running career is just entering its fourth season is a benefit to her physically and mentally.
“I think it’s a benefit,” Kepler said. “She just doesn’t know how much pressure really exists.”
He said she will continue to improve because she has both talent and a relentless work ethic.
“She’s super competitive,” he said. “She’s one of those kids who, she hates to lose more than she likes to win.”
Murphy said that while this is her final collegiate cross-country season, she feels like her career is just getting started. She’s looking forward to the next step as the No. 27 ranked Utes head to Eugene, Oregon, where they will race against the top-ranked Oregon Ducks and the No. 5 ranked Colorado Buffalo in the Pac-12 Championships.
“I’d really love to see a top five team finish out of us,” Murphy said. “We’ve finished fifth (in the conference) the last two years in a row. So I’d like to do that or better. Then individually, I’m just going to stick to my go-to race plan — go shake things up and see what happens. I’m not through yet. I’m just getting started.”
The sport has offered her insight into her own abilities.
“I’ve learned to take responsibility for all of my own actions,” she said, “and not let my successes or failures define me.”
Utah’s colleges are enjoying impressive seasons this fall, with seven men’s teams ranked in the top 20 in the NCAA, while six women’s teams are ranked in the top 30 in the NCAA.
BYU men enter this weekend's WCC championships with their highest ranking in school history — No. 2 in the NCAA. They're also No. 2 in the Mountain Region. They will contend with Portland, No. 3 in the NCAA, on Friday at the WCC meet in San Francisco.
The men’s team jumped to No. 2 — from sixth — after nearly sweeping the meet that included three top 10 teams. BYU was led by Clayton Young as the Cougars placed first, second, third and fourth and seventh for 17 points — just two points away from a perfect score.
BYU women are ranked No. 18 in the NCAA and fourth in the Mountain Region and will battle San Francisco, No. 4, at the conference championships.
The Wildcats will host the Big Sky championships Saturday with the women racing at 11 a.m. and the men racing at 11:45 a.m.
Weber’s men’s team is ranked No. 8 in the Mountain Region and will be racing against top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Northern Arizona and No. 12 in the country SUU.
The Wildcats are led by junior Jordan Cross, an Ogden High alum, who ran his personal best 8-kilometer race with a time of 23:51 at Louisville in pre-nationals.
"He's a great leader," said head coach Corbin Talley. "He's an intelligent, determined young man."
Weber’s women are ranked 11th in the Mountain Region and will contend with the Northern Arizona women, who are ranked No. 26 in the NCAA. The women are led by former Orem standout Summer Harper. She qualified for the NCAA finals as an individual during her freshman season in 2013. She served a mission, and now a junior, she's leading a talented team.
USU women will take their highest rankings in school history into this weekend’s Mountain West Conference meet. The Aggies are ranked No. 12 in the NCAA and No. 3 in the Mountain Region and they’ll be battling New Mexico, No. 2 in the country, and Boise State, No. 8 in the country, at this weekend’s conference championship meet. They're led by Park City alum Alyssa Snyder, who transfered to USU this summer from Montana State.
The USU men are ranked No. 19 in the NCAA and No. 7 in the Mountain Region, and that is also their highest ranking in school history. They will be challenged by Colorado State, No. 9 in the NCAA, and Air Force, No. 17 in the NCAA, at the MWC championships.
The UVU men and women will be running in the WAC championships this weekend. The Wolverines’ men’s team is ranked No. 11 in the Mountain Region. The women are ranked No. 13 in the Mountain Region and have won the WAC title the past two seasons. The WAC championship meet is in New Mexico on Saturday.
The SUU men will be racing in Ogden for the Big Sky championship. The T-birds are ranked No. 12 in the NCAA and No. 5 in the Mountain Region. They’re taking on the top team in the country in Northern Arizona.
The unranked SUU women will also be competing at the Big Sky championship meet.
The NCAA’s Mountain Regional meet is Friday, Nov. 10, at Utah State University. That Mountain Region includes BYU, Utah, SUU, Weber State, USU, UVU and schools from Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona schools above 3,000 feet.