Kauai’s Pierce Murphy earned All-American status again with a strong performance in Wednesday’s 10,000 meter race (10K or 6.2 miles) in the NCAA Division 1 Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The 2011 Island School graduate and University of Colorado runner finished in 29 minutes, 15.18 seconds to take fifth place. He covered the final 400 meters in 58.76 seconds, the fastest closing lap in a field of 24 of the nation’s finest distance runners.
“I felt good,” he said after the race in a phone interview with The Garden Island. “I just focused on staying relaxed as much as possible, not really thinking about pace or where I was in the race.”
His parents, Shawn and Doreen Murphy of Kilauea, watched their son run and cheered themselves hoarse.
Shawn said it was a great race, although nerve-racking, as Pierce battled in a tight pack chasing the leaders, waited to make his move in the final mile, then finished with a strong kick in a last lap that had everyone screaming.
“We’re pretty stoked,” he said.
Edward Cheserek of the University of Oregon won in 28:58.92, followed by teammate Eric Jenkins in 28:59.92. Jason Witt of Brigham Young University was third in 29:04.58, while Craig Lutz of Texas was fourth in 29:11.17, followed by Murphy. The first eight finishers are All Americans.
Shawn Murphy said he was impressed as Pierce stuck to the pre-race plan despite temperatures that climbed into the upper 70s. Three runners failed to finish.
“He knew what he wanted to run, stayed with it and it paid off,” Shawn Murphy said. “He didn’t burn himself out.”
“We’re very proud of him,” he added.
Basil Scott, who coached Pierce on Kauai, called it a gutsy performance.
“He stayed within his physical limit on a hot day and finished strong,” Scott said.
“It was a tricky race that went out fast for such a hot day, slowed, then surged, slowed a little, then a steady increase in pace toward the finish,” he said.
Murphy, Scott said, “ran really smart.” During two especially slow laps, Pierce went out to lane four so he could get some water, and poured that over his head.
“I thought that was really smart since anything you can do to keep core temperature down on such a hot day will help you, and he essentially picked a slow lap to make a pit stop,” Scott said.
Murphy, who still has a senior season at the University of Colorado, said the plan going into the race was to conserve energy early, tuck into the pack, and charge home hard with a mile to go.
“I was hoping for a top eight to get on the podium,” he said.
It worked out even better.
He felt good as the miles clicked by. His final, furious mile was about 4:25. He was in sixth place before his sprint in the last 200 meters carried him up one more place. Murphy was pleased.
“Fifth place is awesome,” he said.
Murphy has earned All-American honors twice in cross country and now twice in track for the Buffaloes.
With track season over, he’ll take a two-week break from running and then start training for cross country. He plans to return to Kauai for about three weeks in July.
“I’ll be back home training and surfing,” he said.