For someone who didn’t go out for the track and field team until his junior year, Penn Manor’s Kyle Murr did one heck of a job learning on the fly.
And fly he did last spring.
Coaxed by Comets coach Ben Schober to give track and field a shot last spring, Murr hit the track — the runway and jumping pits in particular — running. And once he got up to cruising altitude, Murr became one of the top jumpers in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
“I didn’t think I’d be very good at it,” Murr said. “But (Schober) knew I had some jump in me. I challenged myself, and I ended up falling in love with it.”
Ditto for his teammate and jumping buddy.
For someone who didn’t go out for the track and field team until his sophomore year — after moving to Lancaster County with his family from the Dominican Republic — Penn Manor senior John Martinez, like Murr, was also a quick study.
Last spring, Martinez took Murr under his wing and showed him the jumping ropes, and the duo became quite the 1-2 punch on the runway.
“Track has helped me a lot — physically and mentally,” said Martinez, who never participated in track before arriving at Penn Manor. “I was able to make new friends and set new goals. I really think I was born for track.”
Also a football and basketball player, Murr took Schober’s advice and landed a spot on Penn Manor’s squad, focusing on the long jump and the tricky, technical triple jump. And with a push from Martinez, he had an outstanding rookie season.
“I tried to help him out, because it was his first time,” Martinez said. “He needed some help and I was always there to motivate him. When I started the year before, I wasn’t that good, and I didn’t understand anything. So I told him that it’s not easy the first time you try it. But you’ll get it.”
Murr sure did, soaring to a second-place finish in the triple jump in the L-L League championship meet, going 43-5. In the District Three finals at Shippensburg University, he went 45-6 for his personal record in the triple, but he just missed out on a spot in the state finals.
This winter, Murr set his PR in the long jump with 20-6, and in the same indoor meet at Franklin & Marshall in late December, he won the triple jump with a 44-5.25.
“I’m proud of myself,” Murr said. “I was happy to make districts in the first year I was doing this. I’ve flown way past my own expectations. Early last year I wasn’t doing very well, but my jumping coach (David Hess) helped me get my steps down, and all of the intricate things that go into jumping. And I was able to make myself better.”
Meanwhile, Martinez soared to a seventh-place finish in the triple jump in last year’s L-L League finals, with a top leap of 43-3.25 in the regular season. This past winter, Martinez had a 22-3.5 in the long jump, second-best among league leapers in the indoor season.
Martinez and Murr combined to win the triple jump event at Manheim Township’s Blue Streak Relays last year, and after so much success this past winter, they were ticketed for big things this spring.
“I was looking forward to having a big season, and then all of this happened,” said Martinez, who missed his senior season after the PIAA canceled all spring sports over COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s so disheartening,” Martinez said, “especially after putting in a lot of hard work to get ready.”
But it was a nice two-year ride for Martinez, and a memorable debut for Murr, who will come back next year for his senior season.
The tandem logged a lot of time on the track, perfecting their craft. Murr went from complete novice to L-L League medalist to indoor meet winner to a couple of solid personal bests in less than a year. Martinez not only crafted himself into a top-notch jumper, but he did it while learning a new culture and a new language.
“We’ve become great friends and we really push each other,” Murr said. “Last year we picked each other’s brains and we made each other better, which is great. We went into every meet wanting to finish 1-2 in both of our jumping events.”
Martinez and Murr had even bigger goals for this spring, with their sights set on postseason glory. But the coronavirus shelved those plans.
“Honestly, this whole thing is just sad,” Murr said. “I’m glad I had the indoor track season, but not being able to compete at a high level this spring is just disappointing. You miss having all of those eyes on you, and being out there trying to do your absolute best in your events.”
“But,” Murr said, “jumping has really changed my life and I’m glad I’m doing it. And I was really excited to get back out there and jump again this season. This will definitely motivate me for next year.”