COTTAGE GROVE – Brennan Murphy, a standout performer on Cottage Grove’s boys track and field team, completed a record-breaking day at the Wally Clochetti Invitational at CGHS on Saturday, becoming only the second athlete in school history to run the 400-meter dash in less than 50 seconds. His final time was 49.96.
“It feels really good to finally break 50. It’s been a couple of years coming,” Murphy said after the race. “I’m just happy to keep climbing up, and I’ve PR’d pretty much every time this season, so I’m feeling good.”
Last season Murphy came in second at the Class 4A state meet in the 400m. This season his new mark puts him as the second-fastest Class 4A time of the season, and he leads the classification in the 200m. For Murphy’s head coach Ricky Knutson, the sub-50 is exactly what he wanted to see at this point in the season.
“I’m excited for him. He’s been putting in the work, and when you finally break through those barriers, it’s just reassuring that you’re headed in the right direction,” Knutson said. “I think he still has some left, for sure, which is great because we want to be fastest in the next two weeks. So we’re trending in the right direction and this time of year, that’s what we want to see.”
High school and college track and field is unique compared to the professional level. It’s an individual sport, but also a team sport, with athletes earning points for their team depending on where they place. For Knutson, that means getting the most out of his best athletes, Murphy being one of those.
Murphy was already locked into three events for this week’s Sky-Em League Champoinships: the 200m, 400m and long jump, where Murphy is third in Class 4A this year. Their goal last Friday was to find a fourth event for Murphy, so they tested out high jump, which Murphy, a senior, hadn’t competed in since middle school. He ended up jumping six-feet, tied for seventh in Class 4A this year.
“Jumping six feet today, that’s going to put him in the mix next week at league as well, so it’s exciting to get him into a fourth event,” Knutson said.
Both Murphy and Knutson are hoping that Murphy’s success is a sign of what’s to come on the team level as well. The Lions boys are coming off a Sky-Em League title and finishing in fifth at state last season, one point behind Mazama for a top-four finish. This year, the boys are trying to do something that no CGHS boys team has done in decades.
“It’s been a long time since the boys finished top-four, I think it’s some time in the 1970s. We were one point out last year, and we’ve been in that situation before. I think in 2018 we set the record for most points scored by the sixth-place team. Most years it was third or fourth,” Knutson said. “So we’ve been right there, and we’ve come up short a few times.”
Although Knutson said he tries not to discuss the state meet with his team too much before the distric meet, Murphy said it’s been a motivating factor for several returners.
“I definitely believe we can get a trophy at state. Last year we were a point off from getting a trophy, so that hurt. I think a lot of us have a chip on our shoulder. And I think we’re ready to get a trophy,” he said.
Before competing at state though, the Lions must defend their league title this weekend in one of the deepest leagues in Class 4A. Only the top-two finishers in each event automatically qualify to state, so there’s very little margin for error. Knutson believes his team has the talent and depth to repeat and compete with the best.
“It’s an exciting next couple of weeks. I mean, this is what it’s all about, and kids are feeling good,” Knutson said. “Ultimately, we want to win the district title. It’s a fun thing for the kids to be able to stand up and take that that trophy home together, that’s a big deal.”