LA GRANDE — A pair of Eastern Oregon friends are lacing up their spikes for cross-country and track and field at Eastern Oregon University.
Heppner senior Madelyn Nichols signed a letter of intent on Jan. 6 to run with the Mountaineers, and Pendleton’s Jordyn Murphy signed her letter of intent on Jan. 14.
“At first, I was set on Eastern,” Nichols said. “My brother (Hunter) is there. Then I started talking to coaches at Mount Hood (Community College), Lane (Community College), Western Oregon and College of Idaho. Eastern won out because I know a lot of people there and I’m familiar with the campus.”
EOU also moved to the top of the list because the COVID-19 pandemic limited campus tours, and meeting with coaches and prospective teammates.
“Madelyn and I have run together with Athletic East (running club) since the seventh grade,” Murphy said. “Eastern is close to home, and my friend Kaylee runs there and we are super close.”
Kaylee is Kaylee Cope of Helix, who joined the EOU program in April 2020.
At 5-feet-11, Murphy has a long stride that has served her well on cross-country courses. Her personal best time is 19 minutes, 56.10 seconds, which she ran as a sophomore at the Kyle Burnside Wildhorse Invite.
Her junior year, Murphy ran a 21:15.50 at the Mustang Invitational in Heppner.
Three weeks later, she turned in a 21:26.60 at the Intermountain Conference district meet in The Dalles, finishing 14th.
“I love seeing our kids sign to compete at the collegiate level,” Pendleton cross-country and track coach Ben Bradley said. “Especially when they are nearby. Eastern has done well with their distance runners, and Ben Welch is a good coach.”
In the fall of her junior year, Nichols finished fifth at the 3A/2A/1A Special District 3 Cross-Country Championships at Pendleton Community Park. She ran a personal best 19:41.60 to earn the last spot to state.
She finished 18th at the state meet in a time of 20:33.10.
Nichols has a 4.0 GPA and will graduate in the spring with about 50 college credits. She would like to major in molecular biology.
“I’ve thought about being a doctor or a (physician assistant),” she said. “There is less schooling being a PA.”
An honor student, Murphy has plans to major in athletic training.
“I like learning what happens to your body and how to stay healthy,” she said. “I like learning how the body works, and how to prevent and help people through injuries. I want to stay involved in sports.”