Clayton Murphy and Arian Washington pose for a photo after getting engaged in Napa County, Calif.
There is no denying that track and field Olympians Clayton Murphy, 23, and Ariana Washington, 22, are fast. But off the track, the two — who met at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and have since become engaged — are taking their sweet time when it comes to planning their wedding.
Murphy, an Olympic bronze medalist in the 800-meter, and Washington, a sprinter, got engaged this past summer in Napa County, California, where they plan to marry in December of this year. They shared with TeamUSA.org about the surprise proposal, their favorite part of being engaged and what they have planned for their first Valentine’s Day since that memorable day.
How did you propose to Ariana?
Murphy: Proposing was a challenge as we had already discussed marriage, dates, location, and even hired a wedding planner. However, with the help of our wedding planner, our family and closest friends, I was able to pull off a complete surprise of a proposal.
The proposal was set in Napa Valley, where we planned to get married. She thought we were there just to enjoy time away and look at wedding venues. We started our day with a wine tasting tour followed by lunch. Ari was getting tired and I began to worry if she was going to make it to dinner.
We went back to our room to get ready and my nerves started to set in. I began thinking about what to say, how I was going to do it, what hand to put the ring on, what knee I was going to put down. Our driver picked us up and took us to dinner. After the hostess told us our table wasn’t ready (because everyone but Ari knew that our reservation wasn’t for another hour) we walked down the stairs to the pagoda that was completely decorated for the big moment. I got down on one knee and tried to recite my lines I had practiced, rethought and rewrote a thousand times. The moment was perfect. She had no idea!
Washington: He actually stated the number of days we had been together up to that point. It kind of caught me off guard because he’s not that type of person to know things like that, ha! But he later revealed that he looked it up on the way over to the restaurant.
The ring is gorgeous! How did you pick it out?
Murphy: Ari and I went to a jewelry store where she was showing me what she liked. Little did she know, I actually bought the diamond that day and went back to pick the setting out and take it home prior to proposing.
How did you meet each other?
Washington: We met in Rio! Playing Uno in the USA Track & Field team room. We played a couple games, after that I knew he had a crush on me and we hung out all the time after that.
How long have you been a couple?
Murphy: We have been together for almost two years coming up soon.
Washington: Yeah I think it’s around this time like Valentine’s Day two years ago I was questioning if I liked him or not. Ha!
Why do you make a good couple?
Washington: I think the fact that we are from two totally different worlds and grew up in different environments. You would imagine that we are probably so different, but we are like the same person. He’s definitely my better half; where I slack, he exceeds expectations. He’s always thinking on his toes and is so creative and his heart is so full of love for others. I couldn’t even make up a version of someone who is better for me than he is.
Murphy: Life with Ari is never dull. She brings so many laughs and smiles to my life — always singing or cracking a joke. She cares so much about everybody, and always puts you first. Ari has taught me so much and has helped me grow to become a better man.
Have you made any wedding plans yet?
Both: We have!
Murphy: We actually hired wedding planners before we even got engaged. Because of the busy schedules we both have we wanted to make sure that we had enough time to have the perfect day we both envisioned.
Washington: Our wedding is in Napa, California. We love wine, so it’s the perfect place. We’re going to go with classic colors like black and white with little hints of gold and rose gold. Even guests have to wear either black or white, so super classic and timeless. It will be a fun time — a party to celebrate with all our closest friends and family.
Murphy: To me being engaged did not change much. Our lives are very similar as before, she just wears a giant ring and she is no longer my girlfriend to anyone who asks.
Washington: I would say maybe living together because for the most part I get to see him every single day and we do little things together that make our house feel like home, but other than that nothing has changed much.
What are you most looking forward to about being married?
Murphy: Being married is going to be a very special moment to show the world that we are committed to each other for the rest of our lives. To be able to celebrate that moment with our family and closest friends is going to be a great time.
Washington: I’m looking forward to being able to grow together. We are still young and we acknowledge that, but I think we have lived a lot of life that people our age haven’t lived yet. So, just learning and growing and one day starting our own family is probably what I’m looking forward to most.
Murphy: Unfortunately the weather in Portland is not very suitable for training, so I am traveling to Phoenix to train for the week leading up to the U.S. indoor championships. So before leaving we plan to spend an evening together with dinner and surprises for celebrating our first Valentine’s as an engaged couple.