WESTFIELD TWP. — Ashley Murray’s dream is a simple one. The Cloverleaf distance runner wants to someday compete at the Olympic Trails and represent her country.
While reaching that goal won’t be easy, she’s found the right college and coach to help her in that quest.
Murray will continue her track and cross country careers at the University of Toledo, one of the top programs in the Mid-American Conference.
She will run for first-year coach Linh Nguyen, who came to the Rockets from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has coached his share of nationally touted distance runners.
“He takes girls with average times and they make the Olympic Trails,” said Murray, who officially signed with the Division I school last week. “He makes girls as good as Oregon, so it’s like going there, just it’s in Ohio.”
With her schools narrowed down to Ashland, Malone and Cuyahoga Community College, Murray was watching a collegiate meet at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva and was impressed with what she saw from the Rockets.
“I was there watching Tri-C and then I saw Toledo,” the 17-year-old said. “I was so excited that I scheduled an overnight visit and everything just clicked. I knew right away where I wanted to go.”
On the cross country course, the Rockets have won three of the last four MAC Championships and last season came within one spot of their fifth straight trip to the NCAA Championships. The track program finished second in the indoor and outdoor MAC Championships, the highest finishes in school history.
Nguyen has brought new energy to a program that was built from the ground up under former coach Kevin Hadsell, who resigned in the early part of 2013.
Murray, who plans on majoring in physical therapy, earned All-Gazette accolades after a seventh-place finish in the 3,200 meters at the D-I state meet. The 5-foot-3 senior was plagued by bronchitis and mononucleosis during the cross country season, but still managed to finish third in the Suburban League and qualify for the Tiffin Regional, where she finished 41st.
Murray is now healthy and ready for the challenge of the upcoming outdoor season, which Cloverleaf opens April 1 at Wadsworth.
“I had so much pressure on me during cross country with talking to coaches and being sick,” she said. “Now that I’ve made my decision, it’s such a relief. I’m just running for me now, and I’m hungry, so everyone better watch out.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.