2017 Portland Track Festival

Clayton Murphy Wants To Break The Oldest American Record

Clayton Murphy Wants To Break The Oldest American Record

After competing against the best 1500m runners in the world at the Prefontaine Classic, Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy has his sights set on breaking the American record in the 1000m at the Portland Track Festival.

Jun 11, 2017 by Taylor Dutch
Clayton Murphy Wants To Break The Oldest American Record
After competing against the best 1500m runners in the world at the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago, Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy has his sights set on breaking the American record in the 1000m at the Portland Track Festival on Sunday. 

The record is 2:13.9, and it was set by Rick Wohlhuter in 1974 in Oslo, Norway. The mark is the oldest American record in existence and continues to hold despite numerous attempts to break it over the years. As the third-fastest American 800m runner in history, Murphy could be the one to finally rewrite the record book. 

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Although Wohlhuter and Murphy competed 40 years apart, the two 800m stars are both key members of American middle distance history and share similar stories of rising to the top. 

"Part of the reason why I chose this record was because of its history," Murphy told FloTrack in a phone interview. 

Wohlhuter grew up in St. Charles, IL, and attended the University of Notre Dame, where he won the 1970 NCAA indoor championship in the 600-yard run and helped the Fighting Irish to a runner-up finish in the 4x1500m relay. After graduating, Wohlhuter joined the University of Chicago Track Club and continued to train with the hope of improving on his college performances. He qualified for the 1972 Olympic Trials, where he competed in the 800m against a historically talented group. Middle distance legend Jim Ryun and Olympic gold medalist Dave Wottle were just a few of the competitors vying for a spot on the Olympic team in that race. 

nullIn the 800m final, Ryun took off early on the backstretch, and Wottle countered the move while the rest of the field stayed back. In that critical moment, Wohlhuter made the decision to follow Wottle and go with the move. The decision paid off as Wohlhuter finished runner-up to Wottle, who set a world record of 1:44.3 to win the race and make the team. Unfortunately for Wohlhuter, he fell in a preliminary heat at the Olympic Games in Munich. But Wottle went on to win gold. 

Wohlhuter continued to train after the 1972 Games, setting an American record in the 800m on two different occasions and winning national titles in 1973 and 1974. In 1976, he qualified to represent the United States in the 800m and 1500m, the last American man to qualify for both events. At the Olympic Games in Montreal, Wohlhuter earned a bronze medal in the 800m and finished sixth in the 1500m. He is the ninth-fastest American in the history of the 800m event. 

Murphy burst onto the scene as a rising star in the collegiate ranks with dramatic improvements from his senior year of high school to his junior year of college at the University of Akron. As a high school senior at Tri-Village in New Madison, Ohio, Murphy ran 1:54 in the 800m. But as soon as he arrived at Akron, Murphy began to mature under the tutelage of coach Lee LaBadie. In three years, Murphy went from being a 4:11 miler and a 1:54 800m runner to a 1:42.93 star and an Olympic bronze medalist in the 800m. 

In his junior year at Akron, Murphy won the NCAA indoor 800m, NCAA outdoor 1500m, and the Olympic Trials 800m final and finished third in the 800m to world-record holder David Rudisha and Olympic gold medalist Taoufik Makhloufi at the 2016 Olympic Games. As a 21-year-old, Murphy became the third fastest American in the history of the 800m. 

After winning the 2016 NCAA outdoor title, Murphy signed a shoe contract with Nike and has competed as a professional ever since. In April, he ran a world-leading 1:43.60 in the 800m at the Mt. SAC Relays and recently notched a massive personal best of 3:51 in the mile at the Prefontaine Classic. In his first Diamond League race ever, Murphy finished fifth and gained a lot of confidence from the performance. 

"It was really fun to mix it up with the best in the world," Murphy said. 

Murphy has been training in Eugene, OR, for the past several weeks while competing in meets on the West Coast. LaBadie continues to write his training while Murphy goes on the occasional run with local Eugene natives such as Andrew Wheating and members of the Oregon Track Club. He says he will reevaluate where he wants to train after he competes at the USATF Outdoor Championships on June 23-25, hopefully with the option of competing in European Diamond League meets before the IAAF World Championships in London. 

Before he attempts to make another international championship team, Murphy wants to get his name in the record book. Ideally, he says he would want to go through the first quarter in 52 seconds, continue with a 1:46 800m split, and close in a time that dips under Wohlhuter's best of 2:13.9. If Murphy runs under the mark, he will break the oldest American record and connect two different generations of middle distance history. 

"The record has been around for a long time, and it would be so cool to be part of that history," Murphy said. 

Watch Murphy make his record attempt LIVE on FloTrack this Sunday, June 11.

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