TORONTO – Tri-Village alumnus Clayton Murphy won a gold medal at the Pan American Games, which he hopes is just the first of many in his track and field career.
Murphy, a 2013 graduate of Tri-Village High School, won the 800 meter run with a time of 1:47.19 Thursday in the first international competition of his career.
“It ranks right up there as one of the best experiences in my life,” Murphy said. “Hopefully it won’t be the last one.”
To qualify for the finals of the 800 meters, Murphy won his semifinal race in 1:48.88 Wednesday, edging Rafith Rodriguez of Columbia by 0.18 seconds.
Rodriguez, who is ranked 17th in the world in the 800 meters, led the field into the homestretch during the event final when Murphy made his move to overtake the Columbian in the final 50 meters and beat him by 0.04 seconds for gold.
“That will to win and competitiveness really comes out of me in that last part of the race,” Murphy said.
Going into the Pan American Games, Murphy’s first goal was to make the finals in the 800 meters. From there he was just hoping to earn any medal, he said, although finishing first is always a goal.
“I thought if I made finals I could at least medal,” Murphy said. “That was the goal, to go up to Toronto and at least medal.”
Murphy got to share the joy of victory with his father, Mark, and a pair of his University of Akron coaches, Dennis Mitchell and Lee LaBadie – all of whom traveled to Toronto and watched him compete.
“It made it a lot better,” he said of sharing the excitement with his father and coaches. “Run for the family. Run for the university.”
And Murphy wasn’t the only Akron Zip to medal at the Pan American Games. Teammate Shawn Barber, a Canadian, won the pole vault competition.
Having two gold medalists from the Pan American Games puts Akron in elite standing, Murphy said.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “It’s cool to call Shawn a teammate and a friend.”
During his time at the Pan American Games, Murphy said, he learned a lot that will help him as he continues his track and field career. He also got to meet numerous athletes from the United States and beyond.
“It was fun. I had a great experience,” he said. “It’s something I won’t forget for sure.”
Murphy also took pride in being able to compete for the United States and winning a gold medal for his country.
“It was cool to be able to wear USA across my chest,” Murphy said. “I’m really proud to be able to represent Team USA very well.”
Murphy will continue international competition at The North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships on Aug. 7-9 in in San Jose, Costa Rica. Like the Pan American Games, Murphy is focused on making the finals in Costa Rica and then running for a medal.
“Hopefully gold is how it ends,” Murphy said of his next foray into international competition.