After slumping up three flights of stairs following a rigorous weight session late Monday evening, a typical college student talked about something not so typical: being a collegiate athlete.
Jennifer Muniz, a junior speech communication major with a minor in business, is quietly having a great season as one of CSU’s best swimmers. Coming from Mullen High School in Littleton where her team won state titles in three of the four years she swam, Muniz has experience with success — a factor she says helps her in the pool.
Muniz has similarities to the typical athlete as well as differences. She feeds off the pressure put on her by herself and her teammates but does not have a regular preparation routine. The only action she considers a routine is when she tells herself “you got this” when on the blocks, and eating a big meal after a meet.
“I try not to have routines,” Muniz said. “They make me too
Participating in the 400 meter and 200 meter individual medley as well as the 200 meter butterfly, Muniz said her favorite events are the IMs. Because she gets to all the different strokes and neither is too long or too short, a Goldilocks of the pool, her events are just right.
Using her ability to swim medium length races to her advantage, Muniz believes she has high but realistic goals for her team as well as herself.
“I want our team to finish in the top three of the Mountain West Conference,” said Muniz. “And my expectation for myself is to give everything, 100 percent, everyday, every meet, so that we can get to that point.”
So far, Muniz is doing her part. She has slowly been increasing her speed over the course of the season and plans on beating all of her times. Since the time she was recruited for her “size and coachability,” her coach John Mattos has seen potential.
“She never gives up,” Mattos said. When asked what separates Muniz from other swimmers, Mattos said simply, “Her physical strength.”
This may be possible because her focus and determination have changed this year. Muniz says her motives for swimming were not love or passion, but parental. After trying and failing at every sport, Muniz found she was good at swimming and stuck with it, not for herself but to please others.
“This is the first year I have ever liked swimming, and I’ve been doing it now for probably 10 years,” Muniz said. “I’ve just gone through bad coaches, bad teams and John (Mattos) is just an amazing coach and the girls on the team this year are really great. And this is the first year that I have ever loved it.”
Although the love for sport is now there, the ridiculous amount of work the swimming team goes through to keep in shape for the season was never absent. As a person who loves all food, particularly Mexican, Muniz is happy for the extra workouts. The team practices nine times in the pool, has three weight sessions and does out-of-the-water work every week.
With such a heavy workload, Muniz has learned to balance being a student and an athlete. She has to juggle what all college students have to — friends, homework, lack of sleep, social events and family — but adding the time she has put in to improve in the pool has taken its toll.
“I struggled the past two years and finally this year was able to deal,” said Muniz. “It definitely makes you get rid of things in your life you may not want to get rid of; you have to just be strict on yourself.”
While she has a full plate, Muniz can relate to the typical college junior. She has changed majors three times and has little idea of what she will do after graduation. Although she decided that she wants to attend physician assistant school after her tenure as a Ram, Muniz has not cemented her plans for the restco of her life.
The main reason being — she doesn’t plan that far ahead. But according to her coach, she has the potential to do anything because she exudes the special qualities of “determination” and friendliness.
“Jen is a very hard worker,” Mattos said. “And very easy going.”
What Muniz does plan on, is staying in her home state. Born and raised in Colorado, she loves the mountains and said she could never live without them nearby — however, she did not always think this way.
“John (Mattos) really sold the school to me,” said Muniz. “I never wanted to go in-state.”
Now that the decision has been made, Muniz is happy with it. She loves Fort Collins and CSU because of the scenic views, friendly people and small-town feel.
When she has time, Muniz enjoys being outdoors. She is an avid hiker and is slowly becoming an experienced road biker, as her boyfriend, Andrew, introduces her to the roads.
She said she would like to get onto the slopes again after a sport-mandated hiatus, because as a scholarship athlete, breaking a limb could cost you. Instead, Muniz has found other ways to occupy her time.
She frequently plays with her chocolate Labrador, Sadie, and loves being with friends, watching movies and catching up on sleep. And when she is not competing, she loves to visit friends and family.
And while Muniz said her last year swimming for the Rams marks the end of her swimming career, she will never leave the competition behind and plans to pursue athletics in the future by training for triathlons.
Basically soft spoken, nervous and competitive, Jen Muniz has used her natural talent and desire to win to create an electric energy in and out of the pool. An energy that has gone, for the most part, unnoticed.
“I feel like we work our butts off and we don’t really get recognized for it,” Muniz said. “Come out and support the swim team.”
In accordance with Muniz’s request, the Rams will be traveling to Nebraska for the Husker Invite on Nov. 20 and will host their next home meet Jan. 15 against MWC rival Utah.
Sports writer Keith Robertson can be reached at email@example.com.