Last fall the two Cheshire freshmen emerged as not only the Rams’ No. 1 runners, but the top freshmen in the state according to their State Open times.
“Coming into high school I didn’t know anything about the team or about the meets,” Daddi said.
Murray had the same outlook.
“Honestly, I had no expectations. Just see what I could do and get my name out in the state.”
Now sophomores, the two have more than made a name for themselves.
“I don’t think (Murray) thinks there’s any pressure,” Cheshire boys coach William Lathrop said. “I think he’s just doing what he’s doing and having fun, which is what you want.”
It was last Tuesday and Daddi wasn’t feeling well. But she wasn’t going to show it in her demeanor; especially not on a race day.
“I said, ‘How do you feel?’ She said ‘fine,’ and I know she was lying to me,” Cheshire girls coach Rob Schaefer said.
Daddi ran and finished in eighth place, but her team won the meet, sweeping Hamden, West Haven and Sheehan.
“Her fever was 101. So that’s Lauren,” Schaefer said. “Best thing about her is she is ready, willing and able to do anything to help the team.”
Daddi, who started running in middle school, said she joined the track team because it was the only sport she was really good at.
“I really loved everyone on the team,” she said. “And yeah, I guess I’m pretty competitive in general.”
Last October, Daddi placed sixth (19:53) at the Southern Connecticut Conference championships and was the top freshman finisher. She followed that up by capturing 15th at the Class LL state meet, the second-best finish by a freshman — teammate Calli Parlier was a few seconds faster.
“Quiet steadiness,” Schaefer said in describing Daddi. “She’s hard to read. Big smile on her face and you can’t tell if she’s nervous, can’t tell if she’s overly excited, but as soon as that gun goes off, you can just see this competitiveness on her. That’s really, really rare for a freshman.”
Daddi ended the season running 20 minutes at the State Open to finish 31st, narrowly missing qualifying for the New England championships.
“That was a little disappointing, but she’s very level headed,” Schaefer said. “But it made her hungrier. She’s fiercely competitive.”
Watch the last 200 meters of any distance race, and Murray’s face transforms. An almost comical, but pained and strained, expression shows up. Murray said it’s not on purpose. He’s just always giving 100 percent at the end.
“It just kind of happens,” he said. “Honestly, I just kick as hard as I can.”
Murray says he started running in the fourth grade, the year he won the fitness mile.
“My dad, Peter, he ran in high school and he’s someone I look up to when running.” Murray said.
Coach Lathrop said he knew about Murray when he was in middle school, but was a little surprised athow he quickly separated himself as the No. 1 runner for the Rams. Lathrop thought a few more runners on the team would be closer to him in time.
“We knew he was going to be a special talent for us,” Lathrop said.
At the SCC championships, Murray finished second (16:12). He took eighth at Class LL (16:29) and 28th (16:29) at the State Open, also just missing a shot at advancing to New Englands. His time at the State Open, however, was the best by a freshman since 2008 at Wickham Park when the 5,000-meter course was altered.
A student of the sport, Murray is always one to do the research, ask the right questions and have a plan for the future, according to Lathrop.
“He’s wonderful. A great, great person to have on your team; great teammate and fun to joke around with.”
Murray said he knows nothing is guaranteed this fall. He has goals of advancing to New Englands and maybe beyond, but for now is focused on the team and improving on last season.
“I get excited when he’s close to leading a race,” Lathrop said. “But I think we’re more focused, and he is too, on the team success. And he’ll do whatever he needs to do to make the team better.”
According to CIAC records, Cheshire is the first program to have a pair finish as the top freshmen at the State Open since 2000. Some coaches say it may be the first time in state history, but records are incomplete dating further back.
“I think it’s great for our program going forward,” Lathrop said. “Cheshire is going to be a force to be reckoned with down the road.”