Peyton Murray didn’t exactly show much athletic promise when he was young.

“He tried all of the sports, but he was horrible,” said his mom, Amanda.

“He was terrible,” chimed in his father, Dave. “He was a terrible basketball player.”

Added mom, “He tried lacrosse but wasn’t any good. And in T-ball, he broke both of his wrists.”

But in seventh grade, Peyton Murray not only discovered a sport he enjoyed but also one he excelled in. Now, years later, this teenager who struggled to find his way in sports finds himself as the top discus thrower in Pennsylvania and is well on his way to becoming one of the best throwers in WPIAL history.

At Friday’s Baldwin Invitational, Murray, a junior at Hempfield, unleashed a huge throw of 180 feet, 8 inches to win the discus title. It was a personal best and the top mark by a Pennsylvania thrower this season, according to PA MileSplit. Murray also won the shot put at the Baldwin Invitational following a toss of 52-4¼. His top mark in the event this season — a personal-best 55-0 — ranks seventh in the state.

“I was really excited with the distance [Friday] in the discus. For him to throw almost 181 as a junior is a big throw, and I think he can go farther,” said Dave Murray, Hempfield’s longtime throws coach.

“I’m feeling good,” said Peyton, who won a WPIAL Class 3A discus title and placed third at the PIAA championships his sophomore season. “I’m feeling ready for WPIAL’s, ready for states.”

Peyton is ready for what could be another big postseason for the Hempfield throwers, who have racked up lots of WPIAL and PIAA titles over the years under the tutelage of Dave Murray, who is in his 23rd season as coach. Peyton’s teammate, senior Liz Tapper, is the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A champion in the girls discus and shot put. She’s a Michigan recruit.

Having grown up around the Hempfield program, Peyton Murray has seen his share of big-time throwers, among them Max Adams, Dan Norris and Bella Gera. He’s not only now walking in their shoes but also wearing the same jersey — literally. Murray’s jersey was passed onto him by former Hempfield throwers Adams, Dom Marshall, Alex Murray (Peyton’s brother) and Norris.

“It finally fits me now because I’ve gotten a little bigger. They were huge guys,” Peyton said, laughing.

Hempfield throws coach Dave Murray, center, with sons Peyton, left, and Alex. (Submitted)

At 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, Peyton Murray is a pretty big guy himself. He’s also a member of a big throwing family. Dave Murray was once a star thrower, first at Norwin and then at Allegheny College, where he was an NCAA Division III All-American in the shot put in 1995. The oldest of his three children, Alex, was the runner-up to Knoch great Jordan Geist in the shot put at the 2017 WPIAL Class 3A championships and went on to compete in college at DePaul.

Despite that lineage, Dave had serious questions about whether Peyton would be even a half-decent thrower. Peyton actually did win his first meet — when he was just 3 years old. Dave, Alex and Peyton all entered a meet held at Slippery Rock in February 2006, the same day the Steelers beat the Seahawks to win Super Bowl XL. All three won titles in their age groups. Peyton’s winning heave was 3 feet, 6 inches. But when he decided to give the sport a real shot in seventh grade, there was definitely some doubt considering his struggles in other sports.

“I thought, ‘I’d be happy if he one day scores in a meet,’” Dave Murray recalled.

Wouldn’t you know, Peyton turned out to be a natural.

“Once he started throwing, he was good at it right away,” his dad added. “I’m like, ‘I don’t understand how this has happened,’ but it did. It just clicked. He was good in seventh grade, he didn’t have an eighth grade year because of COVID, and he was awesome in ninth grade. Just being healthy now, I feel like it’s going to have a big finish.”

Hempfield’s Peyton Murray won discus and shot put titles at Friday’s Baldwin Invitational. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Peyton was indeed awesome as a freshman, finishing third in the discus and sixth in the shot put at the WPIAL Class 3A championships. Norris claimed gold medals in both events. Murray hoped to keep that momentum going last season but was injured in the team’s first practice. He was diagnosed with a hip avulsion fracture, which threatened to end his season. Murray ended up not competing in the shot put at all last season, but after some rest and rehab, he bounced back to win his WPIAL discus title before going on to win a national title in the “Rising Stars” division at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. His winning throw at nationals was 169-10, which at the time was a personal record. 

“I might have been fully healthy toward the end of the season, but we were taking it slow,” said Peyton, whose performance at Baldwin came with a coach from Pitt watching. Murray said he is working on setting up some college visits.

There might have often been a yellow stoplight last season, but a year later it has been nothing but green, as Murray has been a full go. In a span of nine days recently, Murray bested his PR in the discus four times. He went 172-10 and 173-10 at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association championship before going 179-1 and 180-8 at the Baldwin Invitational. Adams, a 2014 graduate, holds the school record of 198-3. Murray also produced his shot put-best of 55-0 at the Westmoreland County meet.

“Peyton had a really rough season last year with his hip, and I think that he’s done a really good job of coming back from it,” Tapper said. “I think we’re all really proud of everything he’s accomplished this year, especially [Friday]. A 180 is great for discus. A great recruiting mark. It’s a great mark for him as a junior. He’s going to win states. It’s really awesome.”

When Dave Murray watches his son throw, he said he sees a similar skill set to that of the program’s previous seven PIAA discus champions during his time at Hempfield. 

“He’s very fast in the circle and he has long arms,” Dave Murray said. “He keeps the discus back nice and he spins very quickly. All of my kids who have been really good in the guys’ discus have been really fast, athletic kids. Even if you look at our girls over the years, none of them are really big. They’re fast and athletic. When I train them in the weight room, I train them to be fast.”

Some of that training comes at home. The Murrays property in Hempfield Township includes a throwing circle that was installed in 2020. Dave Murray said that Peyton, Norris and former Hempfield javelin thrower Ben Blahovec actually poured the concrete for the circle, which Dave explained became a home away from home for the Hempfield throwers during the pandemic. The Murrays have a weight room at their home, as well, too.

Eventually, Peyton Murray said he would like to be known as the best to ever throw at Hempfield, which, of course, is not an easy designation to earn. But for now, Murray hopes his season will end with a first PIAA title. He believes he can possibly reach 190 feet in the discus and 57 in the shot put by season’s end.

“We have a wall at school with all of the state champions at our school,” he said, “and I’d like to have my name on that wall.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at