Sydnei Murphy was walking back to the jumping pit after running the fastest 100 meters of her life when it suddenly hit her.
She was happy and excited about having a personal best performance in the state championship, even though she finished third.
She had hugged winner Katlin Sherman of Winston-Salem Reynolds and runner-up Tamara Clark of High Point Central.
What a great race, Murphy thought. What a great race.
But suddenly a cloud intruded on her thoughts. “There went the quad,” she said to herself.
Murphy, one of the nation’s best high school track and field athletes, was entered in four events and wanted to win all of them. She had won the long jump and the triple jump in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state championships the year before and had finished second in the 100 and sixth in the 200.
She was among the favorites in all four events as a senior, and she wanted to win them all.
But her goals have always been more personal than winning a title. She wants to do her best every time. Championships are more of a by-product than her quest.
Winning four events in the state championships was a goal thrust upon her.
“Suddenly, people thought I was suppose to win all four,” she said. “Track doesn’t work that way. You are talking about hundredths of a second and quarter of inches.
“The way I look at it is that my job isn’t to win a race or a jump. My job is to jump farther or run faster than I ever have. You make it that if somebody does better, they have had a great performance.”
The disappointment of missing a chance to win four events passed quickly. It was replaced with the satisfaction of having run 100 meters in 11.13-seconds, her fastest time ever.
“How can you be disappointed in that,” she said. “People sometimes don’t understand. You can’t go out and do a PR (personal record) every day. And sometimes somebody else has a great day.”
She eventually won the triple jump and the long jump and finished third in the 100 and the 200.
The performance earned her MVP honors in outdoor track to go with the long jump, triple jump and 55 meters titles she won at the indoor championships. She narrowly missed winning the national high school indoor title in the triple jump, falling to second on the final jump of the day.
Such performances make her the News & Observer high school female athlete of the year.
She looks back on a career that has far exceeded anything she could have imagined as she watched her older sister, Alexis, compete at Apex High.
“I owe so much to her,” Sydnei Murphy said. “She has been such a blessing. I know I wouldn’t have achieved what I have without her going first. She paved the way.
“She is also the one that convinced me to do the jumps.”
Alexis Murphy, three years older, was the 100 and 200 meters champion oudoors in 2012 after winning the 200 the preceding year. She runs track at the University of South Carolina.
Leea Murphy, Sydnei’s other sister, played on the University of North Carolina’s national championship soccer team in 2003.
Sydnei Murphy narrowed her college decision to Duke or Harvard and chose the Blue Devils because of a pre-med course on instruction that is available to athletes. She wants to be a physician.
But she also wants to get fastest and jump further. Her biggest competition is herself.
Meet Sydnei Murphy
Why Murphy? Won the triple jump and long jump at the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championships and won the triple jump, long jump and 55 meters indoors.
College choice: Duke University
Favorite course: psychology
World’s biggest problem: Hate
I was fascinated to learn: About physics and then applying it all to my sport
Most inspiring teacher: Joshua Gurkin my physics teacher senior year. He was the most caring and supportive teacher I’ve ever had, in and out of the classroom (coming to all his kids’ extracurricular activities to cheer them on, always open to listen if you needed to talk, etc). And he told us not to focus on grades. His goal was for his students to want to come to class and to want to learn and then the good grades would come a lot easier and less stressful. He was right.
Impactful book: The Bible – I live by God’s word. That’s how I was raised, and I couldn’t be more grateful of that.
It is hard to believe that we used to: Think the “grunge” look was a good look ... gross!
Favorite charity is: The Special Olympics – very close to my heart, getting to work with a small group of young kids in multiple Special Olympics this year made my heart find a new love.
Inspirational life: Audrey Hepburn – she’s the picture of perseverance to me. When her dreams of being a dancer were crushed (because of malnutrition) she shifted her focus and became a film star, then a fashion icon setting new trends for women. She then went on to become a UNICEF ambassador. She was much more than just a pretty face, and that’s really important and inspiring to me.
Ideal guest list: Frank Sinatra, Nelson Mandela, Lolo Jones
Something that you enjoy that would surprise people: I absolutely adore old time movies, music, people, fashion, etc. (There’s a trend here if you couldn’t tell yet.) Audrey Hepburn, her movies like Tiffany’s or Charade or Roman Holiday, all my favorites. I’m also obsessed with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole and on and on...the whole 50’s-60’s time period is the way to my heart.
I wish I had been there for: My mom’s athletic career. I hear stories all the time about how unbelievably amazing she was at so many sports, mainly softball, and I always wish I could see her play and be even more infatuated by my mama.