Shannon Murakami | Photo: UCLA
When Shannon Murakami hung up the racing shoes following her collegiate career at UCLA, she left the sport as arguably the greatest athlete, boy or girl, in Santa Clarita Valley history.
Two state championships, six CIF Southern Section titles and 12 Foothill League crowns is just the beginning of an illustrious prep career that included several impressive records and wins.
After nearly three years away from competitive running, Murakami made an exciting return at the Placerita Holiday 5,000-meter race in late-December. The standout was so dominant, it looked like she had never left, as she won by 46 seconds and smashed the course record by over a minute.
The former Saugus standout wasn’t done impressing the SCV community in her return to the roads. On Jan. 18, Murakami ran a 10-mile time-trial at the Ben’s Ten event with former Centurions’ Baxter Frick and Kurt Lutz, finishing in 57 minutes, 4 seconds, the fastest 10-mile performance in SCV history.
It’s that mark that has us asking two questions heading into her 13.1-mile debut in Huntington Beach at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning: Will Shannon Murakami come home with the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials B-standard, and if she does, will it erase Lauren Fleshman’s 2011 Santa Clarita Valley Half-Marathon record?
Whether an appearance at the Olympic Marathon Trials in Jan. 2016 is on her mind or not is an unknown, however, Murakami qualiying is definitely a possibility. The 1:15:00 standard is an average of 5:43 per mile. The pace for Murakami’s 57:04 10-miler a couple weeks back? 5:42! And the SCV record? 1:14:56. Again, 5:43 per mile.
If anyone can grab those two marks, it’s Shannon Murakami.
It be foolish to bet against her, too, as she’s proved over and over again that she’s the real deal.
In 2005, Murakami, just a sophomore in high school at the time, won the 3,200-meter event at the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet at Cerritos College. Six months later, she reached the pinnacle of her high school career when she won an individual state division one cross country championship at Woodward Park in Fresno.
In 2007, she ran a solo 4:42.50 1,600-meter performance in winning her third consecutive Southern Section championship, while setting the still-standing division one Southern Section and SCV records in the event. An hour later, she came back and won the sixth section title of her career in setting a personal best over 3,200 meters.
And in 2009, despite several setbacks, the UCLA junior crossed 13th at the NCAA Division 1 West Regionals, which stamped her ticket into the NCAA Cross Country Championships a week later. Murakami and Fleshman, a 1999 Canyon High graduate, remain the only two in SCV history to earn All-Western Region honors in cross country.
With the Huntington Beach Half-Marathon closing in, many fans will be rooting for Santa Clarita’s distance darling.
And if the last decade has taught us one thing about Murakami, it’s that what she chases, she usually catches.
NOTE: Anyone who sets a course record also gets a $1,000 prize bonus. The women’s half-marathon record is 1:14:26, set by Sylvia Mosqueda in 2007.