Texas Tech’s men’s track and field program made history earlier this month.
The Red Raiders won the Division I Outdoor Championships, becoming the first men’s team to win a national title and joining the 1993 women’s basketball team as the only team champions in school history.
“We’d been ranked No. 1 all year,” assistant coach Jon Murray said. “Indoors we were ranked No. 1 and got sixth, which was very disappointing. Outdoors we were ranked No. 1 again, and we really wanted to get that done.
“The guys stepped up and did a good job. Our strength is Coach (Wes) Kittley makes sure we are a complete team. In the discus we had the national champion, also the 100 and 200 (meters). We had two people in the 800 finals, a lot of good jumpers. It was a total team effort. Basically that’s how we were able to do it.
“It was our first podium (for top-4 team finishers). We’d been fifth several times both men and women.”
Murray, a graduate of Carthage High School, completed his 14th season as head coach of Texas Tech’s cross country teams and assistant coach for distance runners on the track and field squads. He joined the Red Raiders after 14 years at Abilene Christian — then Division II.
Kittley was the coach at Abilene Christian who hired Murray, and Murray was head coach in cross country all 14 years and assistant coach for eight years before becoming head coach when Kittley left for Texas Tech. When an opening came on the Texas Tech staff, Kittley hired Murray for a second time.
After an All-American career as a distance runner at Harding University, Murray wasn’t going into coaching.
“When I graduated from college, I was supposed to go to law school,” he said. “I had been accepted and everything, but I couldn’t see myself sitting inside all day long and studying. I like to be outside, be around people who are active.
“I got a graduate assistant’s position at Harding for one year. I moved on to Abilene Christian and took the opening there, and the rest is history.”
Murray challenged for two state championships his senior year at Carthage, finishing third in cross country and second in the 3200 meters.
He held the school record in the 3200 for 34 years until Clayton Whitehead broke it this spring at the KU Relays.
“It’s ironic. Coach (Andy) Youngworth texted me, and the timer at the KU Relays does our meets. I asked him to check it ... they might be a little off,” Murray said with a laugh.
“I’m glad; it’s a good thing. I was in town a couple of years ago and went by to see the new stadium. I saw the records and thought mine needs to be broken. Records are not made to sit around forever.”
Murray’s coaches at Carthage were Carl Lewton for cross country and Ed Streich for track.
“Both were very smart and great role models for me,” Murray said. “Coach (Patty) Vavra was the girls coach in Carthage at the time. My sister ran for her, and I had a good relationship with her.
“Coach Lewton was an old hard-core guy, hard work. Coach Streich, a biology guy, was more on the scientific side ... exercise science. I learned different things about training from him. Both of them were good examples for me.”
Murray said he still has family living in Diamond and comes back to this area about once a year.