"She's my number one girl," the fleet-footed 41-year-old told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview. "I think the world of her."
"Ben is very special to me, too," said Gretchen, 24, a stunning six-footer.
Photo Caption: 'I THINK THE WORLD OF HER,' says Ben Murphy of new gal pal, Gretchen Becker.
Their romance raced off the starting blocks last July when Gretchen, a student, toured the Hollywood set where Ben--who plays Patrick--was working on the new ABC series.
"I'll never forget that day," declares Ben, a fitness fanatic who immediately asked Gretchen for a date.
"Ben introduced himself and said, 'How would you like to come over to my house and run on the track nearby, then perhaps have dinner?'" recalled Gretchen.
"Some girls might not think that was the most romantic invitation they've ever heard, but it appealed to me."
Said Ben, "We set out on the track to run until one of us passed the other by a full lap. As soon as we began, I realized Gretchen was highly competitive and someone very special.
"She ran like a gazelle, and I pounded after her, my heart thumping with exertion as I grasphed for breath.
"We ran no fewer than eight miles before I could finally get by her--and even then she didn't let up. I had to call on every last ounce of strength to beat her by a lap.
"At the end of the race we fell into each other's arms laughing, and I knew I'd found a woman who was more than a match for me."
After what Gretchen called "a summer of sheer magic," she returned to the University of Georgia, where she's studying to be a veterinarian.
Said Ben, "She's still my number
one girl. I can't wait to get her back."
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