As the story below details, Villanova freshman Bryan Murphy got his chance to run the 400 leg of the Villanova "B" team DMR at the Big East meet on February 18th on a fluke -- an injury knocked out a more senior 400 meter man and Murphy was plugged in. He ran well enough there (and Sam Ellison -- the original 400 man on the DMR "A" squad -- was running better than Chris FitzSimons at 800 meters) to move into the 400 meter slot when Ellison was moved to the 800 for the Alex Wilson last chance meet at Notre Dame on March 3rd. Murphy ran well again and the Villanova quartet qualified for the NCAA indoor national meet. Murphy had gone, then, in two week's time, from an obscure freshman to a key spot in a national championship relay race.
Bergen Quartet in NCAA Track and Field Championships
Friday, March 9, 2012
by Paul Schwartz
Chris Phipps knows what Stephen Mozia, Bryan Murphy and Patrick Rono are feeling like today.
A psychology major at the University of Nebraska, and a six-time All-American, the 2008 graduate of Lodi is preparing for his third visit to the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field championships at the same time Mozia, Murphy and Rono are readying for their first.
"I’ve learned a lot from my four years at Nebraska," said Phipps, who will compete at this evening’s long jump and Saturday’s triple jump at Boise State University in Nampa, Idaho. "I’m smarter, I’m more mature and I’ve grown up a lot. But being at a meet like this is always exciting."
Just 13 to 16 participants in each of 15 individual events and 12 teams in two relays qualify for the championship meet and Bergen County has a remarkable four men’s qualifiers in five events, including freshmen Mozia, Murphy and Rono, who were competing for their high schools at Hackensack, Teaneck and Lyndhurst, respectively, just last spring.
Mozia, who throws for Cornell, is the 12th seed in the shot put, and fresh off a victory in the IC4A championships last weekend, a meet where the Big Red took the team title.
"I can’t wait to compete," said Mozia, who had a remarkable throw of more than 62 feet with the 16-pound shot last month, nearly as far as the 62-11 that was his best mark with the 12-pound shot last winter.
He is seeded four spots ahead of Nick Vena, a freshman at Virginia, who dominated New Jersey high school throwing for four years at Morristown and beat Mozia by 14 feet at last year’s spring state Meet of Champions.
"I’m not thinking about him any more, as anything more than another thrower," Mozia said. "I’m trying to throw as far as I can, and beat as many people as I can."
For Murphy, at Villanova, and Rono, at the University of Arkansas, their spots as part of two of the 12 teams in the distance medley relay were not on the radar as early as the start of the winter season.
Murphy, who will run the 400-meter leg on the Wildcats’ ninth-seeded team, made the team for the Big East Conference meet three weeks ago after earning a scholarship to the Philadelphia-area school in mid-August.
"The coach put me on the team at [the] Big East [meet] after one of the other guys got hurt and I ran my best time," said Murphy, who was part of two state championship 4-x-400 teams at Teaneck. "Then I ran even better in a meet at Notre Dame and here I am."
Rono, who will anchor the third-seeded team, didn’t even know if he’d be running indoor track this year, but ended up winning the Southeastern Conference mile title and ran a 4:01 anchor split as the Razorbacks won the conference distance medley title.
"This is really the right place for me to be," said Rono, who won the 800 and 1,600-meter titles at last spring’s state Meet of Champions. "I expected to make the top seven in cross-country but when [previous anchor] Duncan Phillips got hurt, the coaches asked me to step in."
Phipps, who has placed in the top five in three previous indoor and outdoor NCAA titles and won the Big 10 long jump title this year, thinks he can win if he can approach his personal best of 26-7, while Rono thinks a four-minute mile split and an Arkansas distant medley win is possible.
"I just want us to seize the moment," he said. "I think we can."