June 29, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Track: Cloverleaf runner overcomes health issue to reach top

Running is one of the most important things in Ashley Murray’s life. She loves putting the spikes on, hearing the starting gun and pushing herself to limits, whether it’s an 800-meter race or 3.2 miles.

So when health problems during the cross country season put her career in jeopardy, it was a big deal.

Ashley Murray is now at full speed, after battling a health issue, and is setting personal bests in the 1,600 and 3,200. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDD SMERGLIA)

“I love to run, and there is no way that someone is going to take it away,” the 16-year-old said. “My whole life revolves around running, and I just get into a zone.”

But a series of spells during which the Cloverleaf junior would pass out with meters left or just as she crossed the finish line in a cross country race became serious threats.

Towards the end of the fall season, Murray was forced to make a trip to the emergency room to see exactly what was wrong.

“They just thought I was dehydrated, so before a race I would drink a gallon of water,” she said. “I finally went to the doctors, and it was the (caffeine endurance) gels that I was taking.

“It was surreal thinking that I might not run again.”

It wasn’t dehydration, but medicine that constricted blood flow to her brain. Murray, who has an anxiety disorder, previously took medication with beta blockers that wouldn’t allow heart rate to go above 180.

When she switched to a new anxiety medicine, her heart rate reached a whopping 260, leading to a trip to the ER.

“It was scary,” she said. “I knew I was good, but no one would know. I’ve worked so hard, but I couldn’t hang with the top girls in the state because I kept passing out.”

Once the 5-foot-3 Murray squared everything away, she ran a couple of 5K races after cross country season and, from there, started training for track.

Not only does she have a new lease on life, she now has confidence that has been on display fully this spring.

Murray, who now drinks a 12-ounce Gatorade with a teaspoon of salt before races, has been unstoppable this season, setting personal bests in the 1,600 and 3,200.

Last weekend at the Amherst Comet Relays — one of the top mid-season meets in the area — Murray won the 3,200 in a school-record 11:04.98 and was runner-up in the 1,600 (5:16.37). The performances came a little more than an hour apart.

Not too shabby for someone who came into the season with career-best times of 5:33 and 11:45, respectively.

“Honestly, my goal is to be No. 1,” Murray said. “I always wanted to be that one girl at the starting line that everyone else would look at and say ‘Oh, that’s Ashley Murray.’ I feel like I’m finally getting that.”

Her two-mile mark is the 10th-fastest in the state, according to milesplit.com, while her one mile time is also in the top 30.

Murray is seeing the fruits of her labor pay off, along with drawing the attention she’s always wanted.

While the mid-season accolades are nice, Murray is ready to set new goals as the postseason opens in two weeks with the Suburban League Championships at Nordonia.

With the help of Cloverleaf distance coach Dave Freeland, the 1990 Gazette MVP, her goals include an early-June trip down Interstate 71 to Columbus to see where she ranks against the state’s best.

No matter what happens in the final month of the season, Murray is just happy to doing what she loves the most.

“I’m not satisfied yet,” she said. “It’s nice to see all the hard work pay off. I still don’t know what I’m capable of.

“(At Amherst), one runner came up asked me how I got so good and all the coaches kept saying, ‘Why haven’t I heard of you before?’”

Now they know what Murray knew she was capable of all along.

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.