Middleton sophomore O.J. Murdock has quickly become one of the state's top sprinters, and he's not even warmed up yet.
By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2003
TAMPA -- Hoots and hollers are already thundering through the bleachers when O.J. Murdock runs, because man oh man, can this kid ever run.
Less than two weeks ago at South Florida's Steak N Shake Invitational, Murdock, a Middleton sophomore, beat 60 of the state's top sprinters in the 100- and 200-meter races.
Using automatic timing, he won the 100 in 10.5 seconds and the 200 in 21.48, both good enough in most seasons to win state titles.
And this was his first big high school meet. Pressure? Yeah, he felt a little.
"But it was pressure I put on myself," the soft-spoken Murdock said. "I felt I knew what I could do and I just wanted to prove it.
"I wanted to make a big splash last year, but never got the chance. So I'm appreciative for all this."
The trouble last spring while attending Hillsborough High was grades, which kept him from running track and playing football, which might have hurt even more.
Football, which he played as a freshman at Hillsborough, is his first love; and playing for Hillsborough, one of the state's top programs the past decade, was quite an honor.
So when he and his mother agreed on making a change to Middleton during Christmas break, it was far, far from easy.
"All my friends and coaches were at Hillsborough, and transferring kind of meant starting over," he said. "But it's worked out real well. My grades are excellent and I like it here."
Murdock's track coaches, Joe Troupe and Deon Maddox, take it a step further: They are ecstatic Murdock is a Tiger.
"We know what a talent he is, and we know where that talent could take him," Troupe said. "That's exciting.
"A talent like (Murdock) doesn't walk through the door every day."
So how low can he go?
Maddox believes 10.3 seconds or faster is possible in the 100 by season's end.
"He got a terrible start in the 100 meters at the Steak N Shake meet," Maddox said. "But if he got a good start there, he might have run 10.3 in that race.
"No kidding, he was the last runner out of the blocks and then had to run everybody down."
Troupe believes 10.0 in the 100 and 21 seconds in the 200 is a possibility before Murdock's high school career is over.
"He's run 10.5 and (21.43) already and he hasn't even worked in the weight room," Troupe said. "He isn't even fast yet. He's doing what he's doing on natural strength.
"Oh my, there is so much potential there. Now it's our job to make him reach it.
"It's a great responsibility, but it's a good one to have."