By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
Former Port Isabel High Lady Tarpon athlete Daniella Murchison is home for the holidays after a successful first semester at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. She sat down with the Press this week at a local burger establishment and shared the experiences of her first term at the well-known Dallas school.
“In the beginning it was hard,” Murchison told the Press. “I was kind of stressed out, all the classes and practicing. After fall break I got used to it.”
Murchison is attending SMU on a scholarship following a very successful athletic career at Port Isabel High. Last spring she won her third consecutive Class 4-A shot put title at the state track and field meet in Austin. She has been in training in several events for the 2016 season at SMU.
“The first semester was a lot of heavy lifting and running,” Murchison said this week. “Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we were lifting really heavy, and Tuesdays and Thursdays we would do our running and cardio. And every day we would throw.”
The training and practice schedule is different than what Murchison remembers from her high school days. “Here (Port Isabel) I would throw shot put and discus at the same time. In college it’s all separated and spread out.”
Murchison’s throwing coach at SMU is Liz Murphy, who competed as a thrower for SMU just a few years ago. Her main event was the hammer throw — an event Murchison will also be competing in this season.
“I like it and right now the hammer is probably my favorite,” Murchison said Monday. She has limited previous experience with the hammer; “I competed in the hammer my freshman year at a summer meet.”
Her decision to attend SMU isn’t one the young athlete has second-guessed. “I wasn’t thinking only about my throwing. I was thinking about my education, so I’m really glad I chose SMU.”
Murchison is working on a major in Sports Medicine and her first-semester courses included English, Sociology, Anatomy of Movement and Health Promotion.
Murchison has learned to make adjustments to her throwing style and technique since arriving on campus. “She (Coach Murphy) really broke down the throw when I first got there. We started all over and went back to the basics. I practically started all over and that really helped.”
Murchison was asked about the need to balance academics with athletics and how the whole process is different now that she’s a college student.
“The coaches are very understanding. They know that school comes first and they’ll say if you have a paper due then we’ll skip practice today. They’re really good with us.”
Murchison agrees that it’s all about time management. “I think I’ve got it down. I’m really prepared for next semester – I know what to expect.”
Murchison recognizes, as any good daughter would, that her mother played a rather important role in getting her to this point in her life. “I owe her everything. She was the one who took me everywhere and paid for everything. She says she’s going to every meet but I won’t be upset if she doesn’t. She’s going to the one in Oklahoma and I have a lot of meets in Austin, so she’ll definitely be at those.”
Murchison’s teachers at Port Isabel High are also favorably remembered by their former student. “I had Language of Medicine with Dr. Zacker, and Mr. Hancock was our English teacher, Comp I and Comp II. I had to write a really big research essay, and all the stuff he taught me I applied to the essay and it really helped me,” she said.
Last week Murchison was able to get together with friend and former Lady Tarpon teammate Gabby Torres, who was also home on Christmas break from UTSA.
“We saw each other. She came over to my house for a little bit, but we really didn’t talk about track. We just hung out because we hadn’t seen each other since the summer. We’re going to meet … at a couple of meets, I think the Houston one, so we’re really excited about that.” Torres competed in several events in track and field at PIHS and will be competing in the heptathlon for UTSA.
Murchison has her second semester curriculum all set and will return to campus to resume training by Jan. 9. Second semester classes will begin Jan. 15. The first track and field meet of the 2016 season will be at Oklahoma on Jan. 16.
Want the whole story? Pick up a copy of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.