By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Taelour Murphy believes the biggest difference between high school track at Triton and college track at UMass Lowell is that the college level is more focused on individual performance.
That didn’t figure to be a good thing for Murphy at the start of her college career last winter. Murphy started her high school career as a cheerleader, and has always been an outgoing, team-first competitor. She has found a way to balance her passion for being part of a team with college athletics.
The UMass Lowell sophomore recently ran the second leg on the school’s record-setting 4x400 meter relay at the BU Terrier Invitational. Her split of 55.8 seconds contributed to a relay that set a school record and qualified for NCAA Division 2 National Championships.
Murphy has expanded her range of events at the college level. In high school, she was a Division 3 state champion in the 100-meter dash in 2011 as a senior at Triton.
“I’d never trained for the 400, or even raced the 400, in my life,” Murphy said. “It’s taken hard work, doing more endurance and speed.”
Murphy has trained under UMass Lowell coach Mike Ekstrand since the start of last indoor track season. She said her high school commitment at Triton pales in comparison to Ekstrand’s demands.
“In high school, it’s not like a full-time program,” Murphy said. “In college, it’s full time. It feels like a second job, but I live it. In high school, it’s geared toward team points. You do everything for the team, and it’s great. In college, it’s mostly invitational meets rather than dual meets, so the goal is to qualify for conference championships, qualify for New Englands and qualify for Nationals.”
Murphy was joined on the 4x400 relay by Elisabeth Monty of Charlton, Nicole Giaquinto of Winthrop and Shannon Cunningham of Foxboro. The relay finished in 3:45.76, currently the second fastest result in the country among Division 2 and 3 teams. The previous school record of 3:47.25 was set in 2005.
“College track is more individual, but it still has the team aspect, particularly in the relays,” Murphy said. “Teammates are rooting you on. At practice, you’re racing, and basing times off each other.”
Murphy’s goal for the season is to earn All-America honors by helping the relay team deliver a top-eight finish at Nationals.
“My goal is to get better, peak more,” Murphy said. “I want the relay team to run a little faster. I had my fastest split ever in the 400, but I think I can still improve.”