She just made it.
Only 24 women make the NCAA championship field in the heptathlon, which gets started Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Kansas State’s Mairead Murphy qualified at No. 24 — keeping her NCAA hopes alive after a near four-year break from the event.
Murphy — from Hillview, Ireland — received her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Dublin and after hearing about and meeting K-State track and field coach Cliff Rovelto, she decided to spend her last year of eligibility competing with the Wildcats.
And though Murphy competes in the heptathlon, she is especially strong in the 100-meter hurdles.
Murphy stayed in Manhattan for winter break last year and had the opportunity to spend time training with Rovelto.
It was during the break that Rovelto suggested Murphy tackle the heptathlon .
“I suppose I have a lot to gain from it,” Murphy said. “I did heps a lot when I was younger, but here I had a lot to gain from it,” she said during an interview with The Mercury last week. “I hadn’t done it in four or five years and I had seen the successes Coach Rovelto had, so it was something that I had nothing to lose with.
“It kind of took the pressure off.”
Murphy said competing under pressure has always been a struggle in the past, but going into the NCAAs as No. 24, Murphy has nothing to loose.
“I’m lucky because I’m ranked number 24 and have absolutely no pressure on me,” she said, “which is completely different than any other heps I’ve done.
“I’m just super excited to just go to the events, and if I can move up the rankings a little bit and improve that’s just great and if I can get a few PRs I’d be really happy.”
In January, when she took on the challenge of getting back into competing the grueling seven-event heptathlon, Murphy said she didn’t see herself making it to the outdoor championships this spring.
Rovelto, however, had mentioned it as a possibility and saw her potential from the start.
“If she were to just go and have a personal best, end up among the top 16 and be an All-American, I think that would be a great meet for her,” Rovelto said. “She didn’t do one thing in specific for the combined events until December of this year and it had been almost three years before that and she had done nothing. So, the amount of progress that she’s made in that amount of time, is remarkable.”
Murphy currently holds a 5,399-point personal record, which is the fifth-best record in school history, and is competing in the heptathlon along with teammate and returning national champion, Ryann Krais.
Krais said having someone in the same event as her at the NCAAs will help her stay in the right mindset. She, too, is impressed with the progress Murphy’s made this season.
“Coming in as a 100 hurdler and coming out as a NCAA caliber heptathlete, that’s a pretty impressive task there,” Kraiss said. “It’ll be fun having somebody at NCAAs to do the heptathlon with because it is such a long event.
“I like Mairead a lot because we’re very similar in our focus. It will be nice to have that companion at the meet.”
While Murphy may have grinned and said it was Rovelto who talked her into competing in the heptathlon, there is no doubt that Murphy’s hard work and training has given her the opportunity to compete on the national stage.
As for her time at K-State, Murphy said she enjoys life in Kansas, competing in the Big 12 and the support she gained from the track and field program.
“I find Kansas so similar to Ireland,” Murphy said. “I find people are really similar and people are down to earth, and it’s really homey because it’s such a small community.”
After she finishes this season with K-State, Murphy said she isn’t sure on what she plans on doing now that school is done.
Murphy is a physiotherapist, which she said is basically a physical therapist, and would like to return to Manhattan and work as a track and field manager or head to New Zealand to find a job there in her field.
“I was the exact same this time last year when I was finishing up my undergrad,” Murphy said. “When someone asked me what I was doing next year, I was like, ‘I have no idea.’
“But this is definitely where I’m supposed to be and hopefully that’ll be the same next year.”
Murphy’s first event — the 100-meter hurdles — begins Thursday afternoon. After completing four events Thursday, the heptathlon will continue Friday beginning with the long jump at 3 p.m.