Former BHS track greats adjust to college
By Jimmy Gillispie
Signal Sports Writer
After winning many gold medals in high school, the first year-and-a-half didn't go as expected for Baldwin High School alumni Matt Noonan, Hugh Murphy, Eric Black and Eric Brown.
"All of them had tremendous success, being able to adjust to the year-round training and to college," said Mike Spielman, Baldwin High School track and cross country coach. "They've all done a great job of adjusting."
The foursome graduated from BHS in 2002 and then separated across the country to participate in NCAA Div. I cross country and track and field. They helped Baldwin win back-to-back state championships in track, but were met with new challenges in college.
Noonan was the first of the four to compete in college, because he ran cross country at the University of Missouri. In high school he only ran a 5 kilometer race, but had to adjust to running either an 8K or 10K in college.
"I was really surprised to how I adapted to running the longer distance," Noonan said.
At his first meet, Noonan finished second on the team, which made him know he could remain one of their top runners.
"There were about 10 of us that could have been top five, and I was second on the team," Noonan said. "That set the tone for the rest of the year, as I was second through fifth man."
Noonan ran his best time of 25:12 in the 8K at NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The next season was indoor track, which Noonan and Black both competed in. Black ran the 600-meter run and the 4x400-meter relay at the University of Kansas. Black was either third or fourth for his team in the 600 and ran a best time of 1:13.
"The 600 is weird," Black said. "In high school, I got used to the 800. It's like running the 400 and then trying to hang on."
For Noonan, his indoor season didn't go as well as his cross country season. In the middle of January, he was sick for a week and didn't do any running. Then his coach pulled him out of a meet in early February.
But he came back at a meet at Iowa State University, and won his heat of the 3000 meters in a time of 8:34, which was a 15 second personal record for the two mile, when converted.
"I felt like I was completely whole again," Noonan said. "I felt like I hadn't taken any time off."
The outdoor track season saw all four competing, but for some their season was much shorter than they expected.
Murphy and Brown were finally able to throw the javelin for Brown University and the University of Arkansas. But for Murphy, his season would only consist of one throw.
Murphy's only throw of the year came at the Ford Relays. On his one toss, he threw 215-7, which was a big personal record for him. But on the attempt, he said he knew he injured his arm.
"I basically knew on my first throw I injured something," Murphy said. "I kept my hopes up during outdoor, but I knew I was probably going to have surgery on it."
Murphy didn't throw the rest of the season, and underwent an MRI during the summer; only to find out he needed surgery. He found out he tore a ligament in his forearm and damaged another.
Murphy went in and had surgery Aug. 12, and is supposed to undergo a 12-month recovery process. To repair the ligament, Murphy had a ligament in his hamstring removed, because the normal ligament used in the surgery, Murphy was born without. The surgery was one common to pitchers, so Murphy is optimistic about his recovery.
He said he probably won't throw during the outdoor season this year, but is hoping to throw again in July, so he can have a chance to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
Murphy's throwing partner and counterpart, Brown was able to stay fairly healthy, but didn't have quite the year he hoped for.
"I became more consistent," Brown said. "In high school, I only threw over 200 once."
Brown did have some injuries during the season. He pulled a groin muscle in the beginning of the season, and then injured his back during the middle part of the season. He knows part of the reason is because of the added strength he gained.
"They tried to get me a lot stronger, and I was throwing with all the extra weight and power," Brown said. "I got so strong and fast, I didn't know what to do. It will make me throw further this year."
He did place seventh at conference and was Arkansas' only javelin thrower. By placing in the top eight at conference, he was eligible to receive a national championship ring.
He threw 206-0, which was not a personal record for him, but he has goals of throwing a PR, placing at conference, qualifying for regionals and nationals and maybe going to the Olympic trials.
During his outdoor season, Black ran the 400-, 800- and the 4x400-meter relay. The relay was his favorite of the events.
"It's just fun to run," Black said.
He is hoping to do the decathlon this year, but hasn't been told if that is what he will be training for.
"It's the one I feel the most comfortable with," Black said of the decathlon. "I think they're working me to be a decathlete, but they haven't told me anything."
For Noonan, the outdoor season turned him into running the steeplechase as his main event, instead of the 800-, 1,600- or 3,200-meter as it was in high school.
"It was pretty fun from the get-go," Noonan said. "It was fun being a specialty person."
He ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase five times, and ran his best time at his last race of the season, which was at the Big XII Championships in Austin, Texas. He placed seventh and ran it in a time of 9:29.
"About 800 to go, I was in sixth," Noonan said of the race at conference. "My goal was to be all-conference. When I crossed the finish line, I just felt totally blitzed, but I knew I got my goal."
He also ran cross country again in the fall, and again had a very successful season. He PR'd at pre-nationals again, but in a time of 24:50, and moved up about 19 spots at conference from his freshman year.
"I had a pretty awful summer of training," Noonan said. "I got a late start. I didn't start until July. I was supposed to start in June. But I was either second, third or fourth on the team."
The year was different for all four, but all hope to improve on their performances this spring. But Spielman knows all four can improve and help their teams at conference.
"They ought to be able to keep moving up in their teams and help their teams out at conference," Spielman said.
Black knows they will do fine this year, because they have learned to adjust and have grown older.
"I think we'll do all right," Black said. "We'll be used to the competition and have matured. I think we'll do quite nice."
Noonan agrees with Black about doing well this year and in the future.
"I don't think we've peaked yet, but there's a lot more in the tank," Noonan said. "I think we're setting ourselves up for some big junior and senior years. We've still got a great desire to compete."