Talk about a day to remember.
On Saturday morning, Anna Murdock became a college graduate.
A few hours later, she became a national champion.
In many ways, she still hasn’t processed the latter.
“It doesn’t feel real yet, but it’s starting sink in when family and coaches keep saying, ‘national champion.’ It’s definitely exciting,” said Murdock, who won the 800-meter run at Saturday’s NCAA Division III Outdoor National Track and Field Championships in Canton, New York.
A four-year standout and three-time outdoor national qualifier, Murdock not only won, she did so convincingly. Her winning time of 2:08.14 was not only a personal-best, it was a second-and-a-half ahead of her nearest challenger in the nine-runner final.
Moreover, she legged it out in windy conditions that were not conducive to fast times. She was in fifth place after the first 400 meters, but scorched the final lap — and the field — in a time of 1:06.888 to become the first individual national champion in Franklin College history.
“She basically went out and hit her splits. The door opened up really big with about 250 (meters) to go, and she basically left everybody,” Franklin coach Paul Sargent said. “A second-and-a-half win in the 800 is a lot. That’s a big win.
“In that kind of wind in those conditions, and coming back and racing on back-to-back days, that’s impressive. She definitely saved her last.”
A former standout at Indian Creek High School, Murdock had the third-fastest time in Friday’s preliminaries (2:11.39) in a field that began with 22 runners. Only nine made the finals. Only the top eight would be All-Americans.
And only one would be champion.
“This championship really caps a special year for me, and achieves my No. 1 personal goal,” Murdock said. “Making it even more special is that I won a national title on the dame day I graduated from college.”
An international business major, Murdock had to skip Saturday’s commencement ceremonies to compete in the national championships. Although she was very sorry to miss out, she has no regrets. Especially after last year’s disappointment at nationals.
Murdock entered the championship seeded ninth. Her objective was to finish in the top eight and earn All-American honors. Instead, she was off her game and finished last in the 22-runner field.
On Saturday, she towered above it.
“It was definitely worth being here for nationals,” Murdock said. “I watched graduation (Saturday morning) on my phone. They had it live-streamed.”
Murdock’s triumph seems a fitting, if not a storybook, ending to one of the most accomplished athletic careers in Franklin College history.
Besides being a three-time outdoor national’s qualifier, she earned All-Amercian honors during the indoor season and had the rare distinction this year of being named the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s MVP in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.
In all, she was a three-time conference MVP in outdoor track.
“We’ve never had a national champion at Franklin, in any sport,” Sargent said. “We’ve had All-Americans, but when you’re winning a national championship and you’re a multiple All-American, that puts her up there with some very special young ladies. To win a national championship is huge for the college.
“It’s kind of surreal, actually. Both of us said, ‘We don’t know how to feel.’ We were both elated, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.'”
Murdock plans to celebrate by staying in New York for a few more days for a “mini vacation.” She’ll return to campus Wednesday and receive her degree, wearing a cap and gown and surrounded by family, friends and coaches, from Franklin president James Moseley.
So all’s well that ends well.
“I knew it was going to be my last race here at Franklin, and I wanted to give it my all,” Murdock said. “Going into it, I had confidence in myself. I’ve had four years of training, and I’ve had many experiences leading up to this moment, and this was the time to just put it all there in the race.
“I just had to keep trusting in myself and in my training and just stay with it, and it worked for me.”