The rationale behind a sprint race is simple: get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. If crossing the finish line earns you a PR or a medal -- or both -- even better. For Autumn Wilson and Hali Murphy, sprinting success has come more quickly than the time it's taken you to read this section of the opening paragraph, but for the sensational sophomores from Austin's St. Dominic Savio, sprinting is more than a way of life: it's a passion.
"My passion for track comes from my dad," Autumn says. "He introduced it to me at the age of six, and I immediately fell in love with it. He has been the most amazing coach and has always told me that if I want to be great as bad as I want to breathe, then I will be great."
As for Hali, her passion emerges from her "God-given talent to compete" and a hatred of losing. She says, "I have always been good at running since I was very little, and it really started when I got really good at running miles in elementary school around our little dirt track, which I still remember my 6:34 mile in fourth grade. After fourth grade, my school stopped offering track, so I joined my first track club when I was eleven-years old. That's when I started sprints, but I didn't really get serious until I moved to Texas and met Autumn halfway through eighth grade."
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"Autumn and I have known each other for about three years," Hali says, "but it feels like forever. I am going to tell you a story about how we met, which takes place during the track season of eighth grade. I went to Canyon Ridge MS while Autumn went to Wiley MS. I was the fastest runner for my school and Autumn was hers. I had never met Autumn until districts; I only heard things about her. I, of course, heard that she was very fast, but I also heard stories describing her as snobby and rude. During the meet, Autumn was pointed out to me, and she scared me, not going to lie, but I took it as a challenge."
"After my 400m run, her dad, who is the coach for the Leander Spartans Track Club, wanted to find out if I wanted to run club track, so he sent his daughter. Autumn walked up to me and said her dad wanted to see me, and back then I had no idea why, but all I remember was an awkward conversation between us. I didn't get to know her well until I joined the track club, and from there our friendship took off. Turns out she was also scared of me and didn't know what to say as we were walking to her dad, but we look back at it now and laugh. Knowing that I could race Autumn every day at practice made it a no-brainer to join the club. By the end of that summer we were not only great training partners but also the bestest of friends, which led to us going to the same high school. Our friendship has only grown stronger as time passes, and some say we are peas from the same pod."
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"I am incredibly blessed to have Hali as a training partner," Autumn says. We force each other to work hard and always hold each other accountable when the other may be slacking. Her being a longer sprinter is also helpful to me when I have to train for the 200 and 400 because she really pushes me out of my comfort zone and helps me be the best athlete I can be." Hali concurs: "We definitely push each other a lot, maybe too much at times, but it's very helpful. We might be friends outside of the track, but on the track, we compete against each other with no mercy, don't get me wrong, we have fun at it and rag on each other about who is the fastest and strongest."
The results speak for themselves.
Hali owns the TAPPS all-time mark in the 400 at 55.59 (all classifications), and Autumn claims the all-time TAPPS 6A time in the 100, clocking in at 11.82. "I can definitely lower my TAPPS 400m time," Hali says. "I'm much stronger and faster versus a year ago, and it is a great opportunity to challenge myself to push myself." Autumn, on the other hand, has her eyes on Dallas Ursuline's Stephanie Kalu's all-time TAPPS 100m time of 11.70: "The overall TAPPS 100-meter record is definitely on my radar, and my goal is to break that record this year at state."
In addition to TAPPS success, the sensational sophomores have posted impressive PRs across the sprints: Hali:
100: 11.90 at the 2019 Spartan Invitational
200: 24.45 at the 2019 Coaches Coalition National Championships
400: 54.41 at the 2018 AAU Junior Olympics
100: 11.72 at the TAPPS 6A-District 3 Meet
200: 24.03 at the 2019 AAU Junior Olympics
Long Jump: 18-03.75 at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals
"My goals this year for the 100m is around 11.7, the 200m in the 23s, and for the 400m a 53 or lower," Hali says. Autumn's goals are equally ambitious: "… run 11.5 in the 100, 23.4 in the 200, jump 19 feet in the long jump, and break the 100 and 200 meter record at state." While Autumn must ritualistically wear her headband and leg sleeves, both endure a rigorous weekly training schedule. As Autumn explains, "Monday is the hardest day where we train for longer sprinting, Tuesday we have weight training in the morning and running practice after school, which is usually hard, too. Wednesday we just have weight training after school, and Thursday we run shorter sprints and focus on blocks and mechanics."
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Competing in TAPPS provokes its own challenge: one must accept that the publicity and visibility does not and will not match the national machine that is the UIL State Track & Field Championships. Autumn and Hali, mature beyond their years, accept this fact: "At first it bothered me that TAPPS does not always get much recognition," Autumn says, "but over time I have come to understand that I am not running for recognition. I am running for God and to do my best with the ability that He has given me to uplift Him. Knowing this allows me to enjoy my sport and take in all of the amazing experiences it brings." Hali adds, "It is true that we TAPPSters don't get much recognition versus the UIL, and at first I thought it was unfair, but I realized that I am here to run and do my best and if I do that, my times will get recognized and the coaches will come in its due time."
The beauty of track and field is that the clock, the bars and the marks in the sand do not lie. College coaches have already taken notice, and as their times and marks continue to improve, more top-flight programs will come calling.