Allentown’s Liam Murphy wins Meet of Champions cross-country crown

Allentown High School boys cross country runner Liam Murphy celebrates winning the NJSIAA Meet of Champions race on Saturday at Holmdel Park.PHOTO PROVIDED BY LIAM MURPHY
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Allentown High School boys cross country runner Liam Murphy celebrates winning the NJSIAA Meet of Champions race on Saturday at Holmdel Park.PHOTO PROVIDED BY LIAM MURPHY

Liam Murphy capped his remarkable senior cross-country season when he was crowned the best boys’ runner in New Jersey.

On Nov. 23 in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions race at Holmdel Park, Murphy sped down the final stretch for a winning time of 15:23 to become the first Allentown High School cross-country runner to win the Meet of Champions state race.

Christian Brothers Academy won the overall team championship for a third year in a row with an average team-time of 16:15.20. CBA holds the cross-country state record for team championships with 24.

“It was so awesome,” Murphy said,” It was great to see all my friends and family cheering me on as I ran down the straightaway to win the race. All my coaches and teammates have been a big help to me in achieving my goals this year. It’s great to have that kind of support around you.”

Murphy burst onto the cross-country scene last fall when he made the difficult choice he said of switching his soccer cleats for running shoes.

The move paid off well with Murphy, who had a great 2018 season.

As a junior, Murphy collected first-place finishes at the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey, Group 3 races. He placed fifth at the Group 3 championship and third at the Meet of Champions.

Going into his senior year, Murphy set his sights big, looking to win every race he competed in. That meant winning back-to-back county and sectional championships, while also bringing home first place prizes at the Group 3 and Meet of Champions races.

Murphy knew those were heavy goals to have, but that didn’t waver the once Redbird boys soccer player from trying his best to achieve them.

The senior succeed in achieving most of his goals for the 2019 season, putting together a senior campaign he will always remember for the Redbirds.

Murphy roared to his second straight Mercer County championship by setting a new course record at Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville, speeding in with a time of 15:20.

At the state sectional championship race, Murphy once again stole the show at Thompson Park in Jamesburg to win his second consecutive sectional crown. Murphy defeated West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North’s Luke Johnson by over 21 seconds, coming in with a time of 15:32 for his second sectional title.

Murphy and Mendham High School’s Jack Jennings fought tooth and nail to be crowned state champion in the Group 3 race at Holmdel Park on Nov. 16.

Jennings just got past Murphy for the victory, beating out the Allentown star by two seconds with a time of 15:19. 

Despite the loss in the Group 3 race, Murphy didn’t let defeat get to him with knowing he still had a shot to achieve his ultimate goal of finishing first at the Meet of Champions. 

Murphy devised a plan leading up to the Meet of Champions race and the plan worked out perfectly for the senior.

Instead of coming out fast from the start like usually does, Murphy paced himself a bit and kept himself near the front of the pack.

Once the senior saw his opening to sprint out to take the lead, he took it and the rest was history. 

Murphy galloped home to finish off his season with a thunderous statement, beating out Mainland High School’s runner Kevin Antczak for the gold. Antczak came in with a time of 15:29 to place second.

“Everything worked out the way I wanted it to go,” Murphy said. “All the hard work I put in during the offseason to achieve my goals this year paid off. It was a really good season for me.”

Murphy will continue to run in college, already committing to be apart of the Villanova University cross-country team next fall.

After the success he had in his two years on the New Jersey cross-country scene, Murphy is looking forward to the next challenge of running at the collegiate level.

“It’s a little nerve-racking because Villanova has such a good coaching staff and have great runners on their team,” Murphy said. “I know I’m going to be going up against guys that will be just as good or better than me. I think it’ll be a good learning experience for me. I’m excited about competing at the college level.”

Also placing in the Top-10 in the boys race at the Meet of Champions was Colts Neck High School’s Matthew Bogdan.

Bogdan placed ninth with a time of 16:06.

Christian Brothers Academy won the overall team championship for a third year in a row with an average team-time of 16:15.20.

CBA holds the cross country state record for team championships with 24.

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports