Dream Opportunity Begins for KU Leads' Munoz in Rio

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Jose Luis Munoz’s ideal Olympic dream always included the former Kansas track and field athlete running in a crowded field of competitors. He’ll still be running in Rio as the Olympics open in the coming weeks, but it will be through the halls of the USA House, where the KU Leads staff member will volunteer as a member of Team USA’s hospitality team.

Munoz, who ran cross country and distance events for the Jayhawk track team from 2010-12, won’t be one of the seven current or former Kansas student-athletes competing in Rio but will still be wearing the United States’ colors while serving inside Colegio Sao Paulo, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s hospitality and organizational headquarters for the games.

“I’m a floater,” said Munoz, a KU graduate who earned an advanced degree while completing a graduate assistantship in the athletics department in May. “I could be hosting an event or party. Sometimes they will have parties for, say, Michael Phelps after he wins a gold medal. I help out with logistics and coordinate all that stuff. I’m pretty excited for that.”
 KU’s Munoz in-flight with Simone Biles and 
USA Gymnastics en route to Rio.
Now a full-time employee with KU Leads – the Jayhawks’ student-athlete development unit, which focuses on leadership training, community engagement, traditions and professional development – Munoz is dedicated to enhancing the student-athlete experience at Kansas, which mirrors his role in Rio.

An internship two years ago with USA Track and Field helped open the door to Rio for Munoz, who made connections with the help of Kansas track and field head coach Stanley Redwine, drew notice and aced the interview with resume and mock interview help from KU Leads’ Carrah Haley.

Connections are what drives Munoz’s motivation to go to Rio. He’s offered one of his USA House complimentary tickets to Coach Redwine as a way of saying thank you for the help securing the internship with USA Track and Field, and Munoz looks forward to continue networking with others while there. He packed a handful of Kansas Jayhawk hats to use as trade and gifts.

“It’s a great way for me, professionally, to build on the relationships I built two years ago, a year ago,” Munoz said. “You never know what that could lead me to. Not only on the personal side is it cool, but also on a professional side. I get to represent the Jayhawks.”

While Rio and the opportunities presented to Munoz are exciting for him, he’s not the only one looking forward to his chance to represent the United States. Munoz’s family is also thrilled for their son, a first generation American from Rio Rico, Arizona. He said it is amazing knowing he is representing his Mexican-American family, all while helping the United States.

“That’s the cool thing about the United States,” Munoz said. “You have the opportunity to do these things. We’re all from different backgrounds, but at the end of the day there’s no border or boundary we can’t cross.”

In addition to Munoz and Redwine, several other Kansas coaches will be in Brazil for the Olympic games to support Jayhawks Kyle Clemons (Track & Field / USA), Mason Finley (Track & Field / USA), Andrea Geubelle (Track & Field / USA), Daina Levy (Track & Field / Jamaica), Liana Salazar (Soccer / Colombia), Zainab Sanni (Track & Field / Nigeria) and Ingrid Vidal (Soccer / Colombia). Beth Morford, a Lawrence-based certified massage therapist who works with several Kansas teams, is also assisting with Team USA in Rio.

Munoz, who left Lawrence on Tuesday and shared a flight with the US Gymnastics Team, is realizing a dream he has always had, even if the end result is a little bit different.  

“I’m excited and I think it will be surreal because as an athlete you always dream about the Olympics,” Munoz said. “For me this is kind of fulfilling that dream in one way or another. It looks different, but I think being able to serve the athletes and make their experience well worth it is going to be rewarding.”

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