PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - When Liam Murphy was a junior at Allentown High School back in the fall of 2018, he came across an Instagram post that had a huge impact on his future.
"I remember seeing a post by Sean (Dolan) announcing his commitment to Villanova,'' said Murphy. "And back then I really don't even know what Villanova was. Then I saw that that they were a really good running school, and started to think about maybe going there.''
And Dolan kept working on Murphy, trying convince him to join him at Nova.
"I remember telling Liam when he absolutely crushed me at the 2018 Mercer County cross-country championships that you have to go to Nova, it will be a dream,'' said Dolan, who graduated from Hopewell Valley in 2019. "Since then, I just kept trying to convince him to come to Nova.''
Two years later in 2020, Murphy followed in Dolan's footsteps and become a Wildcat in the hopes of one day doing something magical together.
While Dolan and Murphy have put together some stunning performances over the last couple years at Nova, nothing compared to what happened on Saturday when the two Jersey studs teamed up to produce the greatest moment of their careers by fueling Villanova to the Championship of America 4xmile title at the 127th Penn Relays presented by Toyota at Franklin Field.
And it happened in electrifying and dramatic fashion when Murphy came storming back from behind over the final 200 meters, swinging wide at the top of the homestretch and charging past several teams right before the finish line.
Murphy threw his arms out as he broke the tape, stopping the clock at 16:14.03 to edge Wisconsin, second in 16:14.24. Those are the 8th and 9th fastest times in meet history.
Villanova's victory marked its 21st title in the 4xmile at Penn, the most in meet history in the event. Nova had shared the record with Arkansas. The last time Nova won a coveted wheel was in 2018 when they won the DMR and 4xmile.
After their decorated high school careers where they combined to win multiple Meet of Champions titles and drop some of the fastest time in NJ history, Dolan and Murphy, high school rivals in Mercer County, have been built remarkable resumes at Nova.
They have both run sub 4 in the mile several times, have won multiple conference championships and earned All-American honors, but they said nothing tops what happened on Saturday.
"This is the biggest thing that we've ever done,'' said Dolan, who also won a wheel at Penn when he anchored Hopewell Valley to the DMR C of A in 2018 when he was named MVP.
When you are a distance runner at Nova, you are remembered by how many wheels you won!
"There is nothing better than winning at the Penn Relays,'' said Dolan, who has competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials. "It never gets old. Nothing compares to this. We talk about winning wheels all the time. We walk past all the Penn Relays wheels that Nova has won won everyday. There is an empty spot and that's where this wheel is going. I pretty much slap it every time I walk by it. This wheel is what pushes us everyday. Being able to win at the Penn Relays with my best friend at our dream school is a dream come true,'' said Dolan.
After Sean Donoghue (4:01.24) and Charlie O'Donovan (4:01.80) ran the first two legs for the Wildcats, Dolan ran a 4:00.41 third leg to move Nova up four places before giving the stick to Murphy in third place.
Murphy had payback and redemption on his mind when he grabbed the baton. On Friday, he was nipped by Wisconsin in the DMR, 9:33.82 to 9:24.83.
"I went a little too soon yesterday, so this time I waited and it worked out perfect,'' said Murphy, who split 4:10.24 "The pace was slow for the first couple laps, which was fine with me. When it came time to kick, I was ready. No way I was coming up short again."
Murphy said there's no better feeling than crossing the line first at Penn.
"It's was so surreal,'' said Murphy. "To do this with Sean is a dream come true. Something we will never forget.''