The 800m Duel That Keeps On Giving: Kipyego vs. Murphy

For the past few years, Darius Kipyego and Conor Murphy have formed a friendly rivalry in Rhode Island. 

And on Sunday, that theme continued, with both athletes logging efforts under 1:52 for 800 meters. 

Kipyego scored his latest win in this duel, winning in a hand-timed effort of 1:51.25 -- though, after review, a time of 1:50.80 seems more consistent with the video. 

Murphy was second in 1:51.57 -- though again, after review, a time of 1:51.1 seems more consistent with the tape.  

While not official, those two efforts obviously would be among the pair's best runs all-time. For Kipyego, it ranks up there as his second-fastest 800m of his career. For Murphy, it would have been his second or third best as well. 

"I know I can go faster," Kipyego later said. 

Long before this duel on Sunday, however, these two athletes have been challenging each other on the track. 

Murphy, a Classical senior and University of Virginia recruit, set a state 800m outdoor record in May of last year as a high school junior at the Bishop Hendricken Invitational, going 1:50.43.

Two months later, in June and July, Kipyego, a St. Raphael Academy then-sophomore, was the runner-up at the USA U20 Championships and then won silver at the Pan American U20 Championships, lowering Murphy's time and putting down a US No. 1 mark of 1:49.46 -- which was the second-fastest sophomore time in history.

Murphy still had the indoor mark, though, a time of 1:53.25. Until Kipyego passed that, too, going 1:52.55 in January.

Interestingly enough, the only time these two officially raced in 2020 came indoors at the 1,500m, with Kipyego winning that duel in 4:07.81.

So the battle for supremacy in the middle distance events in Rhode Island, at least in 2019 and 2020, has gone through these two.

Until, of course, everyone got shut down. 

Both Kipyego and Murphy trained and waited patiently for months before deciding to capture a time trial on the track at Providence College on Sunday. No FAT timers were present, though the pair's efforts was clocked through an application on an objective party's phone. 

Paced by Classical senior Max Schmidhauser, they got what they waited for. 

It was another battle of cat-and-mouse between Rhode Island's best two 800m runners. 

Kipyego followed the pace set by Schmidhauser in the first 200m, out in about 25 seconds, with Murphy was less than a second behind. By 400 meters, as Schmidhauser broke off -- and completed his duties -- the duo was flying through in 53-high, Kipyego still leading. 

And then things got interesting. 

Murphy decided at 400m he needed to put some pressure on Kipyego, so he filed off his shoulder and tried to pass. But Kipyego yielded little room, forcing the Classical senior to run on the outside of the lane for the next 180 meters. 

Murphy, however, finally made his move just past the 200 meter mark, passing the St. Raphadel Academy athlete for the first time. 

And it seemed, as it had happened before, that Murphy would add to his overall record against his competitor -- before Sunday, it was 14-6 in all competitions. 

But then perhaps a miscalculation. All that work on the outside had come at a cost. 

Kipyego made one final push with 40 meters later and connected on his move, passing Murphy and stretching through the line in an unofficial hand-timed effort of 1:51.25.

Perhaps, though, this rivalry isn't finished just yet. 

Kipyego says he's hoping for one final effort in June and says he is shooting for a time under 1:50. 

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