Diana García Muñoz stepped up her performance this season after experiencing defeat for the first time.
Muñoz was competing in the 3,000-meter race at the Red Raider Invitational in Lubbock when she performed below expectations.
“Watching one girl pass by after another was horrible,” Muñoz said. “I had never had so many girls pass me in a race. But it was the face of disappointment from Coach Graham that upset me the most.”
Muñoz, a sophomore distance runner for cross country and track, excels in competitions and holds herself to a high standard.
Her love for running began her freshman year of high school in Tempe, Arizona, after her friend convinced her to watch a cross country practice. She decided to join the cross country team, where she later became MVP and team captain.
The state champion said she didn’t know what to expect when she got to ACU, but her coaches – Drew Graham and Ray Walker – made her feel at home.
As a freshman, she found her footing early in the classroom and was named to the Southland Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll at the end of the year. But she left her greatest accomplishments on the track as the Wildcats’ No. 2 runner at all six meets of her first cross country season.
“She is really strong – mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally,” Walker said.
Muñoz said the expectations in college are higher than she ever experienced in high school.
“Mostly it’s about sacrifices,” she said. “You have to eat right. You can’t stay out late. It’s hard sometimes when you want to go out or eat junk food, but you can’t.”
In September, Muñoz was named the Southland Conference Runner of the Week she won the West Texas College Open 5,000-meter race.
The Arizona native earned the Southland honor again in October when she won her first collegiate 6,000-meter race with a time of 22:54.2 at the University of the Incarnate Word.
“Distance is all strategy,” Muñoz said. “People think we just go out there and run, but it takes preparation and timing. Everything has to be perfect.”
Muñoz felt more at ease as her sophomore year came around, but she still had a challenge to overcome.
The second cross country meet of this year was the Red Raider Invitational, which is where Muñoz was exposed to failure for the first time. She felt a full sense of nonfulfillment when she saw the look of dissatisfaction on Graham’s face.
Soon after, Graham was in an accident which disabled him from possibly ever running again.
The running coach and his wife were hiking when his spinal cord was injured during a dive into a lake.
“He lost his legs so quickly,” Muñoz said. “I only have one chance to do my best. I need to do it for him, my other coaches, my team and my family.”
This fall, Muñoz was named Southland Conference Student-Athlete of the Year. She was also selected for an additional all-conference honor.
“My mom hasn’t gone to many of my races,” Muñoz said. “But when I won the race she started crying. I’ve never seen her so proud of me before.”
Muñoz started her track season this year recording the Wildcats’ highest finish with a second-place standing in the 3,000-meter run during the Texas A&M Invitational.
She followed up in the next meet by winning the women’s 4×800 relay with teammates Alexandria Hackett, Isabella Gutierrez and Marina Guerrero.
“I watched her grow into a leader over the past year as well as an all-around better student-athlete,” Walker said. “She runs for something much bigger than herself when she is on the track.”