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Running past the pain

Murphy helps RHS win track meet after losing brother, mom
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
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Ruston High Senior Cam Murphy (in white T-shirt) and the RHS boys track team celebrate after winning Friday’s regional track meet.

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Helping the RHS boys track team win the regional meet allowed Cam Murphy a quick smile a day after losing his mother and brother in the tornado that tore through Ruston Thursday morning.

Friday’s regional meet championship was a big win for Ruston High School’s boys track team.

But for RHS senior Cameron Murphy, it was much more than a win. It was an escape from tragedy.

Murphy and a female cousin were pulled from the wreckage of their Evans Street home shortly after Thursday morning’s tornado ripped through Ruston.

It took authorities longer to get to the bodies of Murphy’s mother Kendra Butler and his 14-year-old brother Remington.

Only a day later, Murphy and his Bearcat teammates competed in the regional meet, claiming Ruston’s first championship in Allen Whitaker’s six-year run as head coach of the RHS track and field program.

“That was a huge, emotional win for us,” Whitaker said of the boys’ championship. “That win meant so much for the team. This team wanted to make the city smile. That was one of the biggest moments of my short coaching career.”

The Ruston girls team finished as runner-up at the regional meet.

“I can’t imagine what the kid was going through,” Whitaker said of Murphy. “He told us Thursday he wanted to run. And I told our coaches in a meeting, ‘He deserves to run.’ It didn’t matter that we had been looking at him as an alternate before all this happened — he was going to run if he chose to. If we made it to state in that relay, great.

“If we didn’t, that’s fine too, as long as that kid was happy, if only for a moment,” Whitaker said. “It took everything off his mind for that short time he ran, and that was worth it.”

At the District 2-5A Meet Murphy didn’t run the third leg of the relay as he had in previous meets this year but instead ran in the 200M run at the district meet.

Ruston’s 400m relay team finished fifth at the regional meet.

“He’s been dealing with some back issues the last few weeks heading into the regional meet,” Whitaker said. “So we had rested him with the intentions of possibly getting him back at the regional meet. Even with the tragedy it just worked out to happen the way it did.”

The emotional day started early Friday in the RHS track and field locker room.

“We had a team meeting early that morning, and it was the first time many of the kids had seen Cam since it all happened,” Whitaker said. “We laughed and we cried. That wasn’t a dry eye in the room. There were some coaches there, and some parents there. We all left that locker room with motivation. We had a goal to accomplish and we did. This all motivated this team in a way I’ve never seen a team respond.

“It was a very emotional meeting. This was the essence of team sports. They all pulled together for one common cause. We came through for not only Cam, but also his brother Remington and his mother Kendra. They were on our minds. The city of Ruston was on our minds. We felt we needed to put a smile on Cam’s face and give the people of Ruston something to feel good about.”

Whitaker said Murphy continues to “do well” in the face of tragedy.

“He’s in good spirits,” Whitaker said of Cam’s mindset. “He’s a little bit overwhelmed from all the calls and texts, but his mom raised a solid kid. He’s an overall great young man. He’s handling the best he can. Personally, I think he’s still in shock right now. But he has a band of brothers around him right now. Multiple families and others have offered him a place to stay. He’s surrounded by his track brothers. He’s overwhelmed, but he’s not alone. He’ll be taken care of, and he knows that. He wants to be around familiar people.

“Every now and then you can tell he’s thinking about his mom and his brother, but he has enough distractions right now to keep him from sinking into a deep depression.”

One of those distractions is thinking about what comes next.

“He’s thinking about his future. He wants his life to be a legacy for his mom,” Whitaker said. “He’s going to school in the fall. We’re not quite sure where yet, but several avenues have been opened up for him to be able to continue his education.”

May 9 is the last day of school for Ruston seniors.

“He has this week of school and then the state meet and Monday and he’s done,” Whitaker said. “The family is trying to get funeral arrangements taken care of. Cam wants to travel with the team down to the state meet. And he also wants to be sure his mom and brother are done right, too. Final decisions haven’t been made yet, but he has said he wants to be with his track family in Baton Rouge and support them at the state meet. What a kid. I can’t say enough about him. I know it might sound cliché, but this is just a wonderful kid. Solid kid.”

Bearcats taking first place wins at the regional meet included Maliek Roberson in the 400M run, Octavio Tilley in the 3,200m, and Jerreun Wagner in the 200m Run. In girls’ competition, Ruston picked up first place wins from the 3,200m Relay, 1,600m Relay, Jada Williams in the 400m Run and Marina Givens in the 3,200 Run.