HELENA — On Day One of the Frontier Conference Track and Field Championship meet, Connor Murgel did what he could to blend in.
Murgel, a member of the University of Providence men's basketball team, was slated to run last in the men's 4x800-meter relay. However, Murgel isn't a member of the Argos' track and field squad, so how did it get to this? Argos head track and field coach Tony Arntson said it was a freak series of events.
"We lost one of our Canadian kids, found out he had to quarantine early and that happened on Monday before he flew home. So he was unable to run (Thursday)," said Arntson. "So of course I called on my old reliable, Connor Murgel, to see if he’d come down and help us out."
Arntson and Murgel's history goes back to their time at Helena High School where Arntson coached Murgel in both track and field and football. However, when Arntson asked Murgel to suit up for him, it wasn't the first time he'd done it at the college level.
"My first year as cross country coach, I did the same thing to him. We needed to get a fifth runner to make our conference eligible for an automatic qualifier. And so Connor came down and ran an 8K with us down in Billings," said Arntson.
While Artson knew he needed a runner, he wasn't entirely sure if Murgel would pick up the phone when he called after asking him to run in the 8K race a little more than a year ago, but Murgel jumped at the opportunity.
"He's like, ‘God, every time you see my name come across your phone, you probably cringe,’" Murgel said as he mimicked Arntson. However, that deep-rooted connection that was built all those years ago led Murgel to say yes.
"It's hard to turn that guy down," Murgel continued. "He's done so much for me. And so I mean, it's just me returning the favor."
On Thursday, Murgel anchored the Argos' 4x800-meter race, and while the Argos may have finished third, there may have been a bit more in it for Murgel.
"It was fun to see his family here watching him and kind of giggling. I think his mom might have made a little bet on him, and I think Connor won the bet," chuckled Arntson.
Murgel told MTN that, allegedly, his mother bet him $100 to see if he could record a time faster than 2:20 in his leg of the race. However, he said he may look back at the "terms of the deal."
"I think it's more like 1,000 if I recall, right? You're going to have to pull the video there, but pretty certain that's what she said," Murgel said jokingly with a laugh. "She might deny it, but I think we might have to take it to court."
After asking him to run for him again, Arntson said he wouldn't be surprised if Murgel never answered another one of his phone calls.
MTN asked Murgel if he would.
"Course I am," he said without hesitation. "Can't ignore that call. If he calls me on, I'm there."