Sister Sync

In May they became the first female SCU track and field athletes to compete in the NCAA postseason.

Sister Sync
Photo by Don Jedlovec

To fans of Santa Clara track, they were known as Kriege and Murphy. But to them, it was Cragg and Flanagan, referring to Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan the two training partners competing in Rio who took first and third at the Olympic marathon trials in February. Mary Kriege ’15, ’16 MBA sees herself as Cragg—partly because their coach consistently mispronounces her last name this way—and Grayson Murphy ’17, with her Irish heritage, as Flanagan.

“We decided they were us,” Murphy says. “Our goal. Our celebrity match.”

As motivation for the track season, the SCU stars made their phone screensavers a picture of the Olympians crossing the finish line. A few months later, Mary and Grayson were the first female athletes to compete in the postseason in Santa Clara track and field history.

In a sport where athletes compete as individuals, Kriege and Murphy have been a team. Their coaches made them training partners 18 months ago, and they have pushed each other to new heights. Theirs is a friendship that—after running and training together for a year and a half—is coursed with school records, dedication, and miles of memories.

They run in sync, finishing within seconds of each other. They talk in sync, usually completing the other’s sentences. And they have broken records in sync, this year setting the fastest 1500m and 5000m times in school history.

LEGENDARY

When Murphy transferred to Santa Clara from Sweet Briar College in Virginia in 2014, an injured Kreige was redshirting. So they didn’t talk much that first season.

“Everyone kind of talked about her like she was this legendary girl that I’d never met so she kind of had a persona on the team before we started training together,” Murphy says.

A stellar soccer player in high school and at Sweet Briar, Murphy was a relatively new to competitive running. But she knew she wanted to continue her athletic career as a Bronco. So, the Utah native turned to running when the coach let her tryout as a walk-on.

Kriege, on the other hand, has running in her blood. Both of her parents run, and her mom Becki ran track in college at the University of California Irvine. Kriege started to seriously train and compete in high school at Archbishop Mitty, always with the goal to competitively run in college.

Murphy says she finally worked up to Kriege’s level at the end of the 2015 track season. The coaches made them training partners, and Kriege knew what her veteran role was.

“I was like ok, I better teach her the right way so I don’t mess this girl up,” Kriege says.

The friendship took off during this past cross country season. And success followed. They both earned two spots in all-conference—the first honors for the women’s program since 2011.

“We were doing everything together,” Murphy says.

On their long runs every Sunday, no topic of conversation was off limits. School, family, the team, training, jokes —non-stop for 11 to 15 miles.

“(It was) 90 minutes to 2 hours where there’s no one else but us,” Murphy says.

They got so used to running together, they looked for each other in the pack during meets.

At Occidental in early May, Grayson spent the first two laps of the 5000m making her way through the back of the pack. Once at the front, she tapped Mary on the shoulder to let her know where she was. Shoulder to shoulder, just like in workouts, they fell into a rhythm and came away with new records—each breaking Kriege’s previous by more than 10 seconds.

“I crossed the finish line, and I looked behind me, and Graysee was right there.”

And when only one broke a record? As Murphy puts it, “We train together so much that when she would break a record, I felt like I kind of broke the record too with her.”

Fittingly, they made history together in May, becoming the first two women from Santa Clara to compete in national regionals. Both runners competed in two events at the NCAA West Preliminary Meet, finishing more than 10 spots above their respective seeding in all .

And that Kansas trip had stories: matching floral California hats, a tornado, flash floods, thunder, lightning, storm chasing. Add, too, a new friend—a tortoise swimming along a flooded bike path during one of their practice runs.

THE ROAD AHEAD

It’s the sisterhood of the traveling runners. Mary is the big sister—the tough, experienced, and honest one. Grayson is the little sister—the more risky, excited, wild one.

“I would probably cut more corners in training,” Grayson says. “And [Mary] would be like, ‘No, we are going to do 60 minutes, not 59.’”

Their racing styles are complementary, too. Kriege excels at the middle of the races, while Murphy’s strengths are the start and finish. But despite all these differences, they’re equally driven and focused.

Kriege, who earned her Master’s degree in Finance this year, closed out her four-year Bronco career with schools records in the 3k, 5k, and 10k. She will start work at Deloitte in San Jose in September as Murphy returns for her senior year in civil engineering, looking to add on to her records this year in the 1500m short distance and the 3k steeplechase. (Because of her transfer, she’ll be able to run for another year after that).

Both are also interested in marathon running, so they are considering training together again for a marathon or the Olympic trails in 2020. And the two of them seem to believe that the synchronization will continue, despite the distance or time.

Murphy: I’m going to miss Mary.

Kriege: I’m really depressed that I’m leaving. I’m just going to show up during preseason and–

Murphy: I told her she’s still training with me.

Kriege: I’m coming whether I’m invited or not.

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