HARMONY — Daven Murphree already owns East Texas and Austin when it comes to the pole vault.
The Harmony High School senior has his sights set a little higher this weekend.
Murphree, a two-time Class 2A state champion in the pole vault, will travel to New York City this weekend to compete in the New Balance Indoor Nationals. He’ll compete on Saturday.
A year ago, he finished third in the event at the New Balance meet and earned All-American honors.
“My goal is to set the Armory (venue for the meet) and meet record,” said Murphree, who in February signed a national letter-of-intent with Stephen F. Austin State University.
“I would hit that with one jump. The Armory record is 17-3 3/4, and the meet record is 17-5. I want to beat that and to go for the national record of 17-9 3/4.”
Murphree enters this weekend’s event seeded in a tie for the top spot. His outdoor best came two weeks ago (17-2) at the Pine Tree Graham/Knowles Relays, and he has an indoor best of 17-1.
After finishing third last year at the New Balance event, Murphree returned to Texas and turned his attention to repeating as Class 2A state champion in the pole vault.
In 2011 as a sophomore, he turned in a best of 16-feet to win the 2A title at the University Interscholastic League State Track and Field Meet in Austin. Last May, his best jump of 16-7 in Austin won the 2A championship and was more than two feet better than runner-up Garrett Morris of Grandview (15-6).
The Class 2A state record is 17-5, set in 1989 by Steven Bridges of Goldthwaite.
Ironically, it was a bad break in another sport during his freshman year that set the wheels in motion for a spectacular track and field career.
Murphree competed in the pole vault as well as the 800-meters and the mile run as a seventh-grader. He concentrated more on the pole vault as a freshman, improving from a 9-9 best in the eighth grade to 13-9 during his freshman season.
“I started going to Jacksonville to train every week during my freshman year and really committed myself to the pole vault,” Murphree said. “Then I broke my hand.”
Murphree, a catcher on the baseball team, broke his hand on a play at the plate during a spring break tournament. At the time, he was ranked first in the district in the pole vault. With his hand in a cast, he wasn’t able to compete in the pole vault as a freshman but ran the 800 and mile again on the junior varsity team to stay in shape.
“I really think if I hadn’t broken my hand I would have gone to state in the pole vault as a freshman. It would have been close, but I think I would have gone,” Murphree said.
What the broken hand did accomplish was leading Murphree to concentrate more on the pole vault.
“I really don’t know what it was, but I started improving a lot in the pole vault and decided not to play baseball anymore,” he said. “That freed me up and I began working with Carl (Erickson) and I got a lot better in that season.”
Carl Erickson and his son, Jeff, own Altius XTreme Vaulting Poles, located in Jacksonville. Carl is a former track coach at Baylor and the University of Texas, and Jeff is a volunteer track coach at Murphree’s future college home — SFA.
Murphree trains with Carl in Jacksonville twice weekly, trains occasionally with Jeff and still finds time to help coach the junior high and high school pole vaulters at Harmony.
“Basically, if they know pole vaulting in Harmony, they know me,” Murphree said.
If all goes well this weekend, the same might be said about Murphree at the national level.