The Team Behind the Team: Volunteer Assistant Erica Murdock
Erica Murdock

Sept. 12, 2013

During each week of competition throughout the cross country season, we will highlight a member of our support staff that helps the Wolverines succeed on and off the course!

Meet Volunteer Assistant Coach Erica Murdock:

How did you get involved in distance running and eventually coaching?
I stumbled into running after deciding one afternoon that I really wanted to be the next Flo Jo. I tried out for the middle school track team and, as it turned out, I wasn't nearly as fast as Flo Jo ... or anyone for that matter. I was one of the slowest girls who tried out. Fortunately, I performed extremely well in the longer distances and over time, established myself as one of the fastest, most versatile runners on the team and in the state. When it was time to choose a university, I knew that I wanted to run, but academics were also very important to me. Much to the dismay of my high school coaches (and many random strangers in my home state of Ohio), I fell in love with Michigan on my recruiting visit and it proved to be the best fit for me. To this day, it remains one of the best decisions I have ever made. I started coaching back in 2002 when coach McGuire was in dire need of a volunteer coach to kick off the indoor season and I was nearing injury-induced retirement from competitive running. I think that we both thought I would help out for the remainder of the season, but things worked out well and he asked me back for the upcoming cross country season. I took a brief hiatus from 2006-2007, but returned to the team in the fall of 2008 and have been helping out ever since.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Aside from working with coach McGuire and learning the ins and outs of training a successful team, I really enjoy working directly with the athletes. It is inspiring to watch them improve and grow over the years, and witnessing their success is as exciting now as it was when I first started. I still get chills when I see the hard work in practice translate to a PR in a race. As one of the younger coaches on staff, the athletes feel comfortable talking to me about their jitters and things that they might not otherwise bring up to any of the other coaches. I'm happy to be able to fill that void and serve as a mentor to the athletes across all of the event groups.

What is the biggest challenge in your job?
One of my biggest challenges as a volunteer coach is finding the balance between my day job as a healthcare business consultant and team practice/travel. When I first started coaching, I was able to dedicate as much time as was needed to attending practices and traveling with the team. Now that I am well into my career and have more work responsibility, I am often rushing out of the office early to make it to campus in time for practice. Fortunately my job is flexible, so I am able to take work with me when we travel and login after hours when necessary. I am grateful that my bosses are supportive of my situation and allow me to work with the team on a regular basis.

What makes working for Michigan special?
Michigan is a special place in that this has been my home away from home since my first day on campus. As a student-athlete you are made to feel that Michigan track and cross country is your family and I find that I encourage that same philosophy as a coach. Being able to offer my time as a volunteer coach for my former program is something that I take a great deal of pride in.

What do you tell prospective student-athletes about what makes Michigan cross country great?
It is quite obvious that Michigan cross country has a tradition of success. What sets us apart from other successful programs across the country is that coach McGuire does a great job of fostering a team atmosphere. There is no hierarchy and everyone -- from the first to the 31st runner -- is held to the same team standards, with the same opportunities to succeed. Anyone looking through a performance list of current and former U-M cross country runners can see that success is not limited to the most talented athletes, but is a reality for anyone who engages and commits to working hard in the program. Not to mention, the team is full of smart, funny, and overall phenomenal young ladies. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

What is your favorite memory from your Michigan coaching career?
Everyone who knows Michigan knows the saying, "those who stay will be champions". Our 2013 cross country graduating class is a prime example of this. They took the charge their freshman year and clawed their way to a fourth-place Big Ten finish. While that might be disappointing for some, we were elated to see this young group tough it out and perform so well. Four years later as seniors, this same group of young ladies stood atop the podium as Big Ten and regional champions and finished fifth at the NCAA meet. I could not be more proud as a coach and alumna to have had the opportunity to work with such a hardworking group of Wolverines.

What is your favorite memory from you own running career?
Oddly enough, the memories that immediately come to mind are not of championships or records or amazing races, but rather relative to the support that I had throughout my running career. I distinctly remember how awesome it was to look into the stands and see my parents there, cheering me on rain, sleet, or snow. They were so proud of me and I know that I wouldn't have had any running success without them. Also, being nominated team captain my senior year at Michigan was truly an honor and a highlight for me. While I wasn't the most decorated runner on the team, it was a great feeling to know that my teammates trusted me and looked to me for leadership. That for me meant as much as any of the accolades or awards that I garnered over the course of my career.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?
When I'm not coaching or working, I enjoy traveling, reading, shopping, running and spending time with my family and friends. I am also obsessed with HGTV and the Food Network.

• Past Entry: Strength and Conditioning

Contact: Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423