May 16, 2014
Maddy Murray, who graduates Saturday, will travel with a suitcase full of awards when she returns to Dallas next week to begin the next chapter of her life. Hopefully she saved room for one more, because it might be the most impressive accolade she's won.
Murray was named the recipient of the ITA's Arthur Ashe Jr. Sportsmanship and Leadership Award for the organization's Mountain Region, a territory that covers eight states.
In all, the ITA recognized a dozen region winners, who came from schools like Northwestern, Rutgers, California, Purdue, Georgia, Alabama, Texas ... and Montana. The award is based not only on leadership and sportsmanship, but scholastic, extracurricular and tennis achievements as well.
She was an easy nominee for her coach, Steve Ascher. Murray will graduate with a GPA in the range of 3.9 as a mathematics major in the Davidson Honors College.
She has been a member of a UM women's tennis team that has continued to reach new heights. The Grizzlies have advanced to the Big Sky Conference tournament championship match each of the last three seasons, and this spring they won the first regular-season Big Sky title in program history.
And on April 11, Murray won at No. 6 singles to help Montana snap Sacramento State's 112-match Big Sky winning streak.
If all that wasn't enough, Murray has been co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and on the University Athletic Committee.
"Based on how much Maddy has given to the department as a whole, I thought she was a perfect fit for this award," Ascher said. "And that's on top of being a student in the Davidson Honors College and being part of a tennis team that during her four-year career hit new historical marks.
"Each of the things she's been involved with takes a lot of time and energy, and she invested fully in whatever she did. Every student-athlete works really hard, but it's been impressive how hard Maddy has worked across the board while being involved in so many different things."
There was a reason Murray wanted to be involved with everything she could possibly shoehorn into her schedule when she arrived at Montana in August 2010. She was home-schooled and had missed out on being part of a high school tennis team and part of a student body.
"I was excited to finally be on a team and be going to class with people, because I didn't have that," Murray says. "I wanted to join as many different groups of people as I could. The Honors College, a sorority, the tennis team. It was exciting just to be part of things."
That schedule was fine for a year or two, when her classes were in the 100 and 200s, but combine more extracurriculars and tougher and tougher math classes and growing athletic demands to a girl who won't take anything but perfect for an outcome, and there is going to be a price that has to be paid.
Because the body of a Division I athlete can't fully function on night after night of three hours' sleep, nor the mind operate at its best when it's on constant overload. It was a hard lesson for someone wired like Murray to 1) learn and 2) apply to herself.
"My personality has always been that if I'm going to do something, I'm going to try to do my best at it. That wasn't going to change when I went to college," she says.
"The biggest thing I've learned is about setting limits. You can't burn a candle on both ends until it's out without there being some consequences. You have to realize you can only do so much and that sometimes a B isn't the end of the world."
If the last four years of Murray's life was divided into a pie chart, school, tennis and her extracurriculars would take up all but the tiniest of slivers.
Most college students live for that sliver. Murray never did. For her it was about the other 99 percent, and she makes no apologies.
"Some people may not see it this way, but I think I've enjoyed college to its fullest potential. I'm happiest when I have my nose to the grindstone. I wouldn't have been happy if I had done it any other way," she says.
"I had the best team experience I ever could have imagined. I had the best coach I could have imagined. It was just ideal. I don't know anyone who's had the college athletic career I've had, just because of the environment I was put in. It's been amazing."
And that makes a guy curious. What will become of Murray when she starts her job at AT&T as a strategic pricing manager on June 2? How well will she shift gears from going from sunup to sundown and beyond to a 9 to 5 job? What will fill in the gaps, and what will become her new outlets?
Because that personality isn't changing and that drive isn't getting dialed down.
Murray says, "The job will be a completely new experience. I just hope what I've done the last four years has prepared me for it." It has. The better question might be, Are AT&T and Dallas prepared for her?
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