Norwich’s resurgent cross country program is led by a pair of juniors who, by no means, fit your cookie cutter image of a distance athlete. One is known for his exploits as a record-breaking sprinter and middle distance runner. And the other? He started the fall sports season playing soccer.
Matt Murray has continued to set the bar high on the indoor and outdoor track and field programs under head coach Shaun Horan. Murray switched from football to cross country a season ago as a means to build endurance. Robert Jeffrey, Murray’s classmate, is the quintessential Johnny-come-lately. A longtime soccer player, he practiced with the soccer team in August before turning to cross country. Winning the Eddie Caputo Memorial 5K race helped Jeffrey make his decision to switch sports.
“He won (the Caputo Memorial) pretty easily, and I talked to him about the possibility of running cross country,” Horan said. “Once Robert figured out that cross country was something he could be successful at, he made the switch.”
It wasn’t long before Jeffrey was running stride for stride with Murray. Murray, who missed making the state meet cut-off by one spot a year ago, came into the fall season in better shape. Already a driven athlete, Murray has improved his times significantly over a season ago. “Matt has seen some of the other runners (in outdoor track and field) running the mile and two mile races in cross country, and cross country has helped them build their endurance,” Horan said. “Running cross country definitely makes him stronger for his best events, and it gets him ready for higher competition. He wants to be the best in track and field, and he really wants to be the best in cross country, too.”