While a wife and mother of three children, Peggy Murphy added NAIA marathon national champion to her list of accomplishments in 1991 and 1993 at Oklahoma Christian University.
Murphy, who now goes by Peggy Skiba, came to Oklahoma Christian as a non-traditional student in 1991 when her husband was transferred to the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, OK.
“She contacted me,” Skiba’s former track coach Randy Heath said. “She did some searches and found that, if she were going to try to go back and run in college, it would have to be at an NAIA school, because there’s no age limitations. She contacted me and I invited her to come. I was mainly taking care of most of her tuition, because she had never graduated from college so she had eligibility that way.”
Previously, Skiba ran for one season at Phoenix College in 1980 and 1981. After a broken leg stinted her collegiate running career, she got married and had three children before returning to Phoenix College in 1987 and running in her sophomore season of eligibility.
Then, her husband’s occupational transfer brought her to Heath and Oklahoma Christian in 1990.
“At that time, we had a women’s track and field and cross country team for about five years,” Heath said. “With a new program, you have to build. It takes time and I was recruiting freshman at the time. We were getting better, but we didn’t have a really outstanding runner yet at that point who could score points at a national meet. Skiba was already that, because she was the queen of road racing in Phoenix, AZ.”
Skiba, a “dominant” runner, won her first NAIA marathon national championship in 1991 at Stephenville, TX, setting a meet record with a time of 2:49.24, in a controversial finish.
“The NAIA made a rule that the men’s and women’s marathon could not start at the same time after she won [in 1991],” Heath said. “Before, everyone started at the same time, at 6 a.m. in the morning the last day of the meet. All the men and women started at the same time, because they were all going to finish at different times. Usually, the men would finish ahead of the women, but not always. Skiba was accused of getting paced by a runner from East Central University, a male runner, but he didn’t pace her, she paced him. The following years, they offset the starts.”
Also in 1991, Skiba became Oklahoma Christian’s first female track and field All-American after placing second in the NAIA indoor two-mile with a time of 10:48.61.
At the White Rock Marathon in December 1991, Skiba set the Oklahoma Christian marathon record at 2:46.38, just 1:38 off of the qualifying standard for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Before her 1992 track and field season, Skiba dropped an clothing iron on her foot and broke a bone in one of her toes, which ended her season and her Olympic aspirations.
“In her off-season after the injury, she came back and wanted to do the marathon one more time, and she won that in two hours and 52 minutes,” Heath said. “There was no competition.”
Skiba won her second NAIA marathon national championship in 1993 at the meet in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Her exact time, 2:52.54, was nine minutes ahead of the second place runner.
In her 1993 season, she earned her fourth NAIA All-American honor by placing fourth in the two-mile national race with a time of 10:52.37.
While a track and cross country runner at Oklahoma Christian, Skiba set nine school records. Her distance medley relay record was broken this past weekend by current Lady Eagle runners, junior Kelsey Castillo, sophomore Kelsey Simmons, junior Leisa VanVooren and graduate student Layne Hammer, in a time of 12:09.22, which was 22 seconds faster than Skiba’s record.
“By example, she proved she could do it at the marathon level,” Heath said. “She was confident, but she was also very low key. She wasn’t out there talking about herself to everybody, but when you talked to her one-on-one she was very confident. She had to be.”