Photo by Jeff Vorva
Decades ago, St. Laurence officials wanted Terry Murphy to be the track and field coach after he helped turn the cross country team into a local power.
He came into the job in 1983 with about as much confidence as a sumo wrestler ready to run the high hurdles.
“It was very difficult and it was very confusing,” Murphy said. “I never coached track before and they asked me to be the track coach and I had no idea what a track coach did. After a couple of years of doing it, I learned on the job. The kids were so great, that I learned along with them.
“It’s wasn’t like baseball or basketball where there were a lot of egos out there. They were kids who were having fun and interested in the sport and they basically got me interested in it because of the way they approached the sport.’’
After 40 years of coaching five sports at the Burbank school – mostly track and cross country – the 65-year-old Murphy is stepping down. He still has a few weeks to go in his final track season but he coached his final home meet on April 26 and a reception was held for him after the meet.
Athletic director Tim Chandler announced that the school was going to erect a new record board in the gym in Murphy’s honor.
“We’ll get all of those records updated on a more modern board that fits better in that gym,’’ Chandler said. “When you look at it, spending 40 years at the same school is something you are not going to see in high school athletics any more, sadly. But think about that. Look at how much of his life he has dedicated to St. Laurence.
“That’s absolutely unbelievable.’’
Senior Antonio Elizondo presented the coach with a baton autographed by the athlete on Murphy’s final team.
“I don’t think we could express just how grateful we are to have you as our coach,’’ Elizondo said. “It’s a great honor to be a part of your final year. I can’t really think of a better motivator and a better coach or a better man. We all take to heart everything that you say and everything that you do.
“This year is all for you. We will strive so hard to make this your best year. We just want to thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts.’’
Murphy’s teams have had moderate success over the years – mostly sending individuals to state in the running sports. In cross country, the team won seven Chicago Catholic League titles. In track, the Vikings finished 17th in the Illinois High School Association Class 2A state meet in 2013.
“One of the things that kept me coming back year after year was the type of kids who participated,” Murphy said. “They are wonderful kids. There was never any ‘me,’ it was all ‘us.’ They have a great attitude toward sports. They know what’s important and what life is all about.’’
Murphy grew up in the Wrightwood neighborhood in Chicago and graduated from St. Thomas More in 1964 and St. Laurence in 1968. He is in the Vikings’ Hall of Fame and plans to work at least one more year at the school as a history teacher.