Saturday, October 24, 2020

Coach Celebrates Father’s Life, Program’s Finest Hour

Carroll Dragon swimming coach Kevin Murphy never felt so good to be soaking wet wearing nice shorts, an oxford shirt and green tie.

Keeping with event tradition, Murphy made the leap into the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center pool at the Class 5A State Swimming/Diving Championships. But this leap was more rewarding and meant twice as much as last year’s plunge.

Both of Murphy’s swimming/diving teams – boys and girls – had just finished best in the state at the 5A level, both setting records for team points. The Dragons dominated the waters in Austin in what was the most historic afternoon in the program’s history.

Dedication, training and teamwork all joined on the top of the podium on this unforgettable Saturday. Soon, both teams will share in a ring ceremony celebrating the accomplishments of the 2012 run. Last season, the girls left Austin heartbroken by a one-point, second-place finish while the boys won the state title. This time, they celebrated each other and together. The bus ride home was not awkward this year like it was last.

This was a bus ride of all state champions.

“It was a pretty nice trip,” Murphy said.

But there was much more to the story of this great day for the Dragons. Murphy fought his own personal emotions. The Dragon coach’s 102-year-old father passed away the week before the state meet. Five days following the funeral, Murphy’s emotional week ended with Carroll’s sweeping performance.

Murphy felt his father Frank was watching over the event and saw the greatest triumph of his coaching career.

“We told the kids that my dad will have a better seat for the high school state meet this year than he did last year,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s father was mentally sharp through his final days. During last Christmas break this was very apparent, as Frank “whopped me” (as his son said) at spades winning four of seven games. Frank Murphy also knew his Dragon swimming. He received regular email updates from his son, which were printed out for him to read by Kevin’s sister. At the age of 101, Frank Murphy was in the stands watching the Dragon boys’ team win the 5A state title.

Frank Murphy, who lived in Rogers, Ark., passed away on Feb. 11.  His son received the news following Carroll’s successful finish at the regional meet. The funeral was held nine days later in Oklahoma City and Kevin delivered the eulogy.

“It was more of a celebration of his family and of his life,” Murphy said.

From coaches, parents and friends, Kevin received 65-70 cards of encouragement. The day after the funeral, Kevin returned to Southlake and went back to work helping guide Carroll into unprecedented waters. But the pressure of producing two titles in one trip to Austin began to weigh heavy. He wanted his swimmers to enjoy the journey and not be burdened by expectations.

“I wanted the kids to experience the joy of winning both meets,” Murphy said. “The boys were happy (last year) but didn’t know how much to be happy.”

Murphy’s father provided a great influence on his career. He traveled across the country when his son was a youngster, and helped foster a swimming career that started at 7-years-old and eventually included competitions in 37 states. His father was also a finish judge at his swim meets. Encouragement as a coach had its greatest impact when Frank along Kevin’s wife Patti, suggested he head for Texas 10 years ago to find a new post. Kevin Murphy listened and he now oversees a swimming/diving powerhouse in the state’s largest classification. From top to bottom, he has built a program on teamwork and competition which builds faster times and championships.

“We prep them all year long,” said Kevin Murphy, in his seventh year at Carroll. “Just go be the fastest and be the best you can.”

This year’s team followed the 2011-2012 motto of “Open The Throttle.” The throttle was open from the start as both teams went undefeated and it stayed open in Austin. Runaway victories and personal records were common. The theme for the 2012-2013 season has already been selected and will likely appear on a future T-shirt at the C.I.S.D. Aquatics Center – “Pressed Down and Overflowing.”

That’s exactly what Frank Murphy would expect from the Dragons, as he watches from the best seat of all.