tampabay.com

Lean in the right direction

O.J. Murdock's revamped technique led to state titles in the 100 and 200 meters.

By BRANDON WRIGHT
Published June 4, 2005


TAMPA - O.J. Murdock could have taken the day off.

The Middleton senior already had signed a college scholarship to play football at South Carolina and had swept all of his 100- and 200-meter races during the season. Approaching his final high school meet at the state championships in Coral Springs, Murdock could have put it on cruise control with his move to Columbia, S.C., just over the horizon.

But Murdock's engine only has one gear - fast.

Murdock blazed to the Class 3A championship in the 100 and 200 meters, and in the process, earned Times' male track athlete of the year honors.

"I was so focused for that meet," Murdock said. "I'd been close before, but this was the first time I was (at states) and considered the favorite with a real chance to win."

Murdock narrowly missed 100 and 200 state titles in his sophomore and junior years, finishing fourth and third, respectively, in each event. He needed something to get him over the top.

"I had to find another gear," Murdock said.

With the difference between third and first place sometimes coming down to hundredths of a second, Murdock tweaked his approach during training. He altered his stance in the starting block and began to concentrate on leaning at the tape a bit more.

"I changed my technique this season," Murdock said. "I upped the caliber of my training and concentrated on a faster start and stronger finish."

The strategy paid off as Murdock clocked a 10.66 in the 100 finals, just ahead of Stranahan's Woodny Turenne (10.67). And it was Murdock's lean at the finish line that got him the win.

"That was the difference," he said. "If I hadn't have done that, I wouldn't have won."

The only races Murdock did not win this year were the ones he did not enter. Murdock missed five meets to open the season after straining his hamstring.

But once he was healthy, no one was faster. After winning all of his races in the regular season, Murdock won the 100 and 200 at districts and regionals. For good measure, he finished first in the long jump at districts.

"A lot of time you see athletes who compete in track think that directly translates to the football field and they are wrong," Middleton football coach Harry Hubbard said. " O.J. just has so much natural talent that he can perform on either."

Murdock was ranked by rivals100.com as the nation's 10th best receiver and 88th overall player. The 6-foot, 185-pound flanker garnered all-state honors and is looking forward to playing for Steve Spurrier next season.

"(Spurrier's) calm and collected," Murdock said. "A lot of people think he's wild and all that but he's not."

Football is Murdock's first priority at South Carolina, but he hasn't ruled out running track for the Gamecocks.

"I'm expecting to go up there and compete for a starting spot and to be in the rotation," he said. "I'm going to focus on football but I can't say for a fact that I won't run track."