This year, two Truman State University alumnae will be inducted into the Truman Athletics student athlete Hall of Fame, leaving their mark on this University forever. The success of alumnae Elizabeth Economon and Sara Murray at Truman has transferred to the rest of their lives as they continue to succeed and to lead by example, just as they did every day in their respective sports.
Former softball player Economon and soccer player Murray will return to their alma mater this weekend to be recognized during the 2017 Homecoming football game. During their collegiate careers, these athletes were high-achieving players and students that significantly impacted their teams.
Economon was a four-year starter and three-time All-American shortstop for the Truman softball team during 2001-2004. Economon was named the MIAA’s most valuable player in 2002 and 2003. In her collegiate career, she set and still holds many records for career runs scored, career hits, career home runs, career total bases, career RBIs, career walks and career slugging percentage. She also has records for consecutive game hitting streak, single season doubles, single season home runs, single season walks and single season batting average.
Economon said her greatest accomplishment as an athlete was the success of her team. She said some of her proudest moments as a Bulldog athlete include going to the regional tournament all four years, winning the conference tournament twice and remaining a strong and competitive team despite three coaching changes. She said postseason was always an expectation and, if the team didn’t win at least 40 games each season, they were disappointed in themselves.
During her four years as a student athlete, she said she was most proud of the hitter she became. Economon found a lot of success at the plate and was a major momentum-driver on the Bulldog’s offense.
“Obviously, we had so many wins as a team, and I had a lot of success at the plate as an individual,” Economon said. “But you can’t be a good hitter if your team is bad, so having a good hitter in front of me and behind me in the lineup was key.”
Economon attributed a lot of her success to the support system she found in her family, friends, teammates and coaches. She said her parents are very athletic and supportive, and her sister was a good friend and teammate to her growing up. She also got the chance to play for competitive teams and impactful coaches.
After graduating from Truman in 2004, Economon became the Truman softball assistant coach for two years. She went on to become a volunteer assistant at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, a hitting coach at Southeast Missouri State University, and a head coach at Pittsburg State University. She will now be an assistant coach at Wichita State University under Kristi Bredbenner, former teammate and coach and fellow Truman Athletics Hall of Fame inductee.
Economon remains in frequent contact with her former teammates and usually gets to see them once a year. She said she is excited to get back to Kirksville this weekend.
Economon said she never thought about future accolades, such as the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame, when she played. She said she was at a loss for words when she received the call from Director of Athletics Jerry Wollmering. She said she is proud to be part of such an exclusive club.
“I have never been so proud of anything in my life,” Economon said. “And the people you spend all your time with, I’ve never been able to express what that feeling meant to me.”
Truman alumnae Bredbenner and Missy Portner and softball head coach Erin Brown coached Economon when they each stayed a fifth year to finish their master’s and undergraduate degrees after a coach left a job opening. They helped lead the team to a conference win against the University of Central Missouri. Brown said the event was a moment she will never forget and Economon was a big part of that.
“I don’t think I’d ever quite seen a player that good at that point in time.” Brown said. “She looked undersized because she wasn’t a giant. She was smaller but she was so strong and her bat speed was one of the fastest I’d seen.”
Brown said Economon hit for power and had good range and arm strength to play shortstop. She said Economon was the best player on the team when she came in as a freshman, but she constantly strove to be better.
During that time, Truman softball was gaining positive attention, but so was the women’s soccer team. Forward Murray was a big reason why.
Murray’s career lasted from 2001-2004, and she was MIAA Freshman of the Year in 2001, MIAA Most Valuable Player in 2003, a four-time First Team All-Conference winner a four-time NCAA All-Regional winner, a two-time first team All-American winner, and a two-time Academic All-American. Today, Murray still holds the record for most goals in a single season, career goals, assists in a single season, career assists, points in a single season, career points and career shots.
Though Murray was a very successful student athlete, she said her proudest accomplishment came when she was named the female winner of the Ken B. Jones Award for MIAA in 2004. This award is given to the top student athlete each year regardless of their sport. She was the first soccer player, and the first female student athlete from Truman to ever receive it.
“Truman fosters an environment for student athletes to focus on athletics and really supports athletics,” Murray said. “But also with the caveat in mind that being a good person and being a citizen of this community you’re in is even more important.”
Murray said she grew a lot during her four years at Truman in ways which still apply to her life today. She said he learned how to manage time and prioritize her daily schedule. She said she identified with biology professor Brent Buckner after she found out he played soccer in college.
Murray said Buckner was like a mentor to her, and they would discuss the pressures and frustrations that come with being a student athlete. She said Buckner gave her advice to get into medical school and wrote her a letter of recommendation.
Murray said she misses everything about soccer, including the camaraderie that existed between her team on and off the field. She said she misses the road trips and the fun she and her friends would have on the bus.
“I’m excited to go back to Truman and show my husband and kids what’s so special about the University,” Murray said. “It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere for someone from Minnesota, but it’s really a special place.”
Murray said she attended medical school in her home state of Minnesota. Today, she said she is back in Missouri working as a minimally invasive surgery fellow with Washington University in St. Louis at Barnes Jewish Hospital. She said she spends the majority of her days operating and doing robotics and microscopic surgeries, with 10 more months of surgical training until her eight years are finished.
Murray said she got involved in club soccer during medical school until she became a general surgery resident and her life became dedicated to her work. Though she said she does not actively play right now, she said it is her hope she will be able to coach her children when they get older.
Women’s soccer head coach Mike Cannon said when Murray came in as a freshman, she was in the starting lineup and eventually took the title as the team’s leading scorer for four years.
“She could score goals, she lead in assists, points, shots, pretty much everything program-wise,” Cannon said. “She was super humble, a hard worker, team player — we really couldn’t ask for more, she was a pretty special kid.”
Cannon said one of the fondest memories he has of Murray was from her freshman year, when she lead the team to a win against, University of Nebraska Omaha. He said Truman’s soccer team had a few girls from Omaha at the time, so losing to them was especially difficult. During the game, he said Murray fought off three defenders and scored a goal that lead the Bulldogs to their first win against UNO.
Cannon said Murray kept deflecting credit after she helped the upperclassmen defeat UNO in her freshmen year. He also said Murray scored within the first minute of a game against the University of South Dakota in her senior year that set the tone in the game.
“Take in every day that you have and just be grateful that you’re able to be a student athlete at such a great institution,” Murray said. “I think it’s easy to take for granted that you’re an NCAA student athlete. But it’s something that even 10-12 years since I’ve been done that I’m still so proud of. Take every day in and be happy with it because something like that doesn’t come around again.”