Kate Murphy looks to cement herself as one of the all-time greats in middle distance running in her final year at Lake Braddock High School in Burke, Va.
Murphy boasts a prestigious track record, with the third-fastest U.S. prep time in history for the 1,500 meters (4 minutes, 7.21 seconds). In June she ran the second-fastest junior outdoor 3,000 of all-time (9:10.51), according to USA Track & Field.
With these times, Murphy joins some impressive runners. Mary Cain and Alexa Efraimson are the only other non-seniors to hold a U.S. prep all-time mark in the top eight in both the 1,500/mile and the 3,000/two-mile, according to Flotrack.
Cain and Efraimson went on to turn pro before their senior years.
Murphy, an American Family Insurance ALL-USA selection last season, has the coming months to surpass the times of Cain and Efraimson, but that isn’t her priority.
“I’m not really focusing on their times, but I think the more I just focus on improving myself, I can get a lot closer to their times,” Murphy said.
Her coach, Mike Mangan, has seen many talented runners come and go, but none like Murphy. When she started running, Murphy displayed hints of her potential, but her improvement over the years has been monumental.
“We’ve had a lot of great runners that’s for sure, but she [Murphy] is probably number one,” Mangan said. “Her name is on the all-time record board more than anyone else and she still has this year to go.”
It might seem unfair to place Murphy up against high school competitors after a summer during which she qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials. She advanced to the semifinals in the 1,500, racing against a field that included Cain and Efraimson at trials in Eugene, Ore.
Although she didn’t reach the final, it was a once in a lifetime experience for Murphy.
“That experience was amazing, it gives me a new perspective on competing and it is a lot more intense than high school running,” she said. “Putting a high schooler with a lot of professionals gives me a new perspective of where I am in comparison to them and where I want to be.”
Murphy’s upcoming challenge? The Southeast Regional qualifier for the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) on Nov. 26 in Cary, N.C. The national championship, with runners qualifying from eight regionals, will be held Dec. 3 in Portland, Ore.
She finished 16th last year at NXN nationals and goes into this year’s competition with no expectations and a new approach.
“Anything can happen on race day and I think that’s what happened to me last year,” Murphy said. “I tried to get in the top five and I had a really bad race and was disappointed.”
The Lake Braddock star has developed significantly in many phases since her freshman year, and Mangan believes her concentration is the best he’s seen.
“Kate is more focused and driven this season, I think there is a little less pressure now that she is committed to a college and she has had the chance to go to many different places,” Mangan said.
Murphy has committed to the University of Oregon to continue her running career, but before that, she looks to end her high school running career where she has most commonly been. At the top.