MISSOULA — Hellgate senior swimmer Sean Murphree suffered a large scar on his left side Saturday afternoon when he jumped from Grizzly Pool.
The healed wound is the result of an accident in late July when Murphree was hit by a car while cycling.
As a competitive mountain biker, he was training for a long ride in the Miller Creek area when he took a horrible turn on the downhill.
“A car was turning left and right in front of me … I was probably going at least 30 or 35 miles an hour,” Murphree said. “I hit the side of his car and broke my collarbone and split my lip in half.”
Afterwards, the state champion in the 50-yard freestyle a year ago barely remembers what happened. It took him a minute to catch his breath, then stood up, thinking he just had a nosebleed.
In fact, car drivers are more worried than victims of car accidents.
“Honestly, he was more scared than I was,” Murfree said. “I feel sorry for him because I know he didn’t mean to.”
But once the shock wore off, Murphy had to face the reality of his injury. He first required a lot of bed rest and then as much physical therapy.
He had to have a metal plate put in to repair his collarbone and his time out of the pool was extended to nine months.
Murphree was back in the water for the first time three weeks ago. Saturday’s Missoula race was only his second since the accident.
“As the swim progressed, I was still getting used to the metal in there,” Murphree said. “It just feels a little weird. I can feel it getting more painful and it’s moving a little differently. It’s not too bad though.”
Turning to running, surprisingly, once he was able to ride a bike (though more hesitant now), Murphree stayed in shape as much as possible ahead of swimming season.
He finished second in the state’s best event, the 50-meter freestyle, with a time of 23.56 seconds Saturday afternoon. The only person ahead of him was Kalispell Glacier’s Isaac Keim with a 22.89.
Ironically, Cam finished second in state to Murphy in last year’s race.
“It’s going to be a good game this year. It’s going to be fun,” Murphy said.
The more comfortable he gets as the season progresses, the more intense the top battle will be. But after such setbacks, second place is a good place to start.
Not to mention his 100m breaststroke first and first place as a member of the Hellgate 200m medley relay team and 200m freestyle relay team.
While Murphree’s strong comeback highlights the Missoula City Meet, there’s plenty of other activity going on, and here are the top three swims from the entire afternoon: