The Bryant Hornets had a remarkable track season in 2015; little doubt that it was the best in the history of the program. As the team captured the first conference championship for BHS then the first Class 7A State championship ever, records fell left and right culminating in a record in the 4 x 400-meter relay that wiped out a Meet of Champs mark that had held since 1977 — 48 years.
Hornets head coach Steve Oury acknowledged even before the State championship that it was the best team he’d had since coming to Bryant, a group with great talent but also great character and work ethic along with a drive to compete.
That described the team as a whole but also the individuals, none more that Steven Murdock who, on Thursday, signed a national letter of intent to continue his education and track career on scholarship at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va.
“Steven is an absolute dream of a kid,” said Oury. “He is the kind of kid a coach is lucky to get in his career. Virginia State is getting an outstanding student and an outstanding athlete. He’s always given everything he’s had. He’s been a great leader on the team for us. He’s going to be terribly missed next year. He’s the kind of kid that any parent would love to have as their son. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Murdock, the son of Steven, Sr., and Melissa Murdock, also started in the secondary for the football team in the fall and was one of the team’s hardest tacklers.
Ironically, he didn’t like either sport when he started in seventh grade.
“I could not stand track,” he admitted. “My dad made me do it as an off-season thing. As I kind of progressed with it, I started to like the sport more and more. It was kind of like football. I couldn’t stand football. My dad made me. He was like, ‘Try it. Throw yourself out there one year.’ And I kept coming back to it. I ended up loving the sport.”
“When he was in ninth grade, he was a pretty solid athlete,” Oury noted. “I thought, ‘This kid’s got some potential.’ Talk about realizing his potential and then some. Every year that he competed he just kept making huge strides. As a sophomore, I said, ‘Well, he’s progressing about where I’d like to see him.’ I don’t think he was where he wanted to be but his junior year is when he really showed himself to be a real contender at the state level.
“He was part of the 4 x 400 team all three years,” the coach continued. “They won conference his sophomore year. His junior year, he was part of a 4 x 400 team that broke the school record, won the State championship. He was runner-up at the Meet of Champs in the 400-meter dash. This year, he was part of a conference championship team, was the runner-up in the 400 and the 200 at the conference meet.
“It was a year of breaking barriers,” Oury noted. “When you look at what we did at the State meet, not only did we win our first State championship as a team after winning our first conference championship as a team. If you look at what the guys did — and Steven is a perfect example. Coming into the State meet, the school record (in the 400) was 49.02, set by John Winn. Steven, at the State meet, ran a 48.96. Of course, he got second to his teammate, John. They both beat the previous school record.
“And Steven wasn’t done,” he continued. “In the 200-meter dash, John had the school record at 22.33. Steven, in the prelims, ran 22.37. But then in the finals, he wins it and runs a 21.92.
“So, not only did he break 49, which had never even been done before that day at Bryant High School, he’s the first and only athlete to ever break 22 seconds in the 200. That’s a big deal, right there.”
Murdock and the 4×400 quartet continued to excel building up to that Meet of Champs triumph.
“We repeated as State champions with Pierce Finney leading off for us, handing off to Brenden Young who handed off to Steven, who handed off the John Winn,” Oury said. “They all ran magnificently. We already had the State championship but you would not have known that by the way they ran. It was all business. And they won by almost six seconds, which, when you’re running that fast, is a lot of ground.
“After winning a State championship, sometimes it’s hard to get back up for the Meet of Champs,” he mentioned. “But it wasn’t a problem for these guys. John and Steven repeat, going 1-2 (in the 400). Then, in the 4×400, they didn’t have as much time to rest between races, but they ran out of their minds. The school record they set at State was 3:18.39. At the Meet of Champs, they shattered that, running a 3:16.76.”
Breaking the mark set by Forrest City in 1977 of 3:17.94.
“That’s a team thing, but it took all four guys and Steven was right there in the middle of it,” Oury related. “I couldn’t be any prouder of him. It didn’t matter how many races he was in, he was always ready for the next one. And his performance never dropped. I knew I could count on him.”
Reflecting on his high school career, Murdock said, “Nothing can match it. I just thank God for what he gave me, guys to push me like John, the best teammates, the best support system. I’m definitely going to miss running here.”
He was considering Arkansas State in Jonesboro and the University of Central Arkansas at Conway at first.
“Those were the schools that I was favoring but my dad is a friend of a track coach at Sylvan Hills and he got hold of this Coach (Jason-Lamont) Jackson from Virginia State,” Murdock recounted. “It went from there. Coach Oury was talking to coaches at SAU and Hendrix but once Virginia State came to the table, nobody else could match it. So I ended up going there.”
He’ll get college paid for through the Presidential scholarship and a STEM scholarship (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
“Since I’m going into the field of Biology, they meet you halfway with the money,” Murdock said. “I want to be an Oncologist, a cancer doctor.”
Asked what Coach Jackson had told him about the VSU program, Murdock related, “He said he was really excited because they don’t have really strong 200 runners. I’m pretty good at the 200 for a high school athlete. They have one of the top Division II 4×400 teams in the nation. I thought that was good because if I can get up to their times, maybe I could go to Oregon.”
That’s where the U.S. Olympic track and field trials are held.
Steven’s older sister, Melinda, is a scholarship runner at Memphis University after a stellar career at Bryant.
“I’m thinking we’re probably going to cross paths a couple of times,” he acknowledged. “That’ll be exciting to see her here and there, and people that I ran against here at Bryant.”