Anna Murdock knew months ago she would likely have a tough choice.
For four years, the Franklin College senior has worked toward a degree in international business — all the while earning a reputation as one of NCAA Division III’s top middle-distance runners.
Graduation ceremonies are Saturday. So are the Division III Outdoor National Track and Field Championships. Commencement is at the college. The finals are in Canton, New York.
Murdock will be in New York.
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Her decision to compete for a national title in the 800-meter run — for the third straight year — was no decision at all.
“Some years you get lucky and it doesn’t work out this way, but it’s just how the cards fell this time,” said Murdock, who had long ago decided to return to nationals if she in fact qualified — a virtual guarantee in light of her pedigree.
An All-American during the indoor season, the former Indian Creek High School standout qualified for the outdoor nationals her sophomore and junior seasons.
Murdock not only qualified a third time, she did so with the nation’s fifth-fastest time in the 800 (2:09.66). With a top-eight finish at nationals, which start Friday and conclude Saturday, she’ll earn All-American honors for the outdoor season for the first time in her distinguished career.
Commencement or nationals? Murdock made that choice a long time ago.
“I knew that it was going to be something that I would have to pick, but (nationals are) something that I’ve worked for four years,” she said. “Being a team leader, and this being my fourth time, it’s something special, that made the decision a little bit easier.”
So did something else.
At last year’s championships, Murdock was seeded ninth in the 22-runner field and was confident of an All-American finish. But things, to put it gently, didn’t go as planned.
She finished 22nd and has had an entire year to seek redemption.
“I’m feeling some motivation in me,” Murdock said, laughing. “I think I just let the race (last year) get away from me. I was a little bit too relaxed. I was fortunate that it was only my junior year, so I was able to learn from that and turn that around for this year.
“It was just another learning experience.”
In light of what have been outstanding indoor and outdoor seasons, Franklin coach Paul Sargent is confident Murdock has saved her best for last. Besides earning All-American honors with an eighth-place finish at the Indoor Nationals, she had the rare distinction of being named the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s Female Track MVP for both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“She seems to be getting stronger each week,” Sargent said. “She’s a workhorse, always wanting to compete and get better. I think she’s more motivated by the Indoor Championships.
“Being an All-American really got her charged for the Outdoor Championships.”
Indeed it did.
“Since I’m coming off an All-American award, there’s just so much more to accomplish,” said Murdock, who has been the HCAC’s outdoor MVP three times. “It’s just believing in myself, having that confidence and just staying focused. Nationals are usually physical races, and you don’t get that around here. It’s always nice to get a little taste of that, so I know what to expect this time.
“I have confidence, and I have three nationals under my belt.”
An international business and marketing major, Murdock is not happy about missing commencement but draws a measure of comfort from the fact school officials have a special ceremony planned for her upon her return.
She’ll still get to don a cap and gown and, surrounded by family, friends and coaches, will receive her degree from Franklin College President James Moseley.
“It just shows the support of the school and how much support I have that they’re willing to do this for me,” Murdock said. “So it just reinforces that Franklin College was the right place, and everything works out.
“I get to graduate and go to nationals, so it’s win-win.”
Name: Anna Murdock
College: Franklin College
Sports: Track and field, cross-country
High school: Indian Creek (2011)
2014-15 highlights: Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference cross-country champion; NCAA Division III Indoor Track and and Field All-American in the 800-meter run; HCAC Indoor Female Track MVP; U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association Academic All-American; HCAC Outdoor Female Track MVP; NCAA Div. III Outdoor Track and Field Championships qualifier in the 800-meter run.
2013-14 highlights: First Team All-HCAC in cross-country; HCAC Most Valuable Track Athlete; qualified for the Div. III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 800-meter run; selected to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team.
2012-13 highlights: First Team All-HCAC in cross-country; qualified for the NCAA Div. III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 800-meter run; HCAC Most Valuable Track Athlete; USTFCCCA All-Academic Team.
2011-12 highlights: All-HCAC honorable mention in cross-country; First Team All-HCAC in track and field; USTFCCCA All-Academic Team.
Major: International business and business management
Parents: Roger and Barbara Murdock