Running from Serbia and London to Ewing

Have you ever wondered what former Olympic athletes do after they’ve competed in the Games? Do they get jobs in other professions, keep on training indefinitely or just stop doing anything, caught up in the glory of what they’d accomplished?

Well, at least in the case of the College’s new assistant coach for both the cross country and track and field programs, the answer is teaching the next generation of athletes how to succeed.

Marina Muncan has joined the Lions’ coaching staff after competing in the London Olympics just over a year ago.

“(The Olympics) were a great experience,” Muncan said. “I had a goal to make the Olympics in 2008, but missed it by two-hundredths of a second, so I had to still train for another four years, but it was like a great dream, the Olympics are just a destination. Walking into the stadium was a little bit of an overwhelming experience, but really exciting.”

Muncan ran as a part of the Serbian team, racing in the Women’s 1,500-meter, where she recorded a better time in the qualifying round than the eventual gold medal winner of the event.

Muncan is a former Villanova University and Serbian national team standout. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

So how does a Serbian Olympic athlete end up coaching in Ewing, N.J.?

“When I was in high school I knew I wanted to come to America to study,” Muncan said. “In Serbia, it’s hard to both be an athlete and go to university. I had an opportunity to go to Villanova, but I had to take a year off after high school to learn English.”

Muncan was a standout at Villanova, where she graduated in 2006 as a four-time Big East champion and a seven-time All-American. Staying stateside post college was a professional decision.

“After I graduated, I had an opportunity to run for New Balance, and I ran professionally for them until 2012,” Muncan said.

Muncan comes to the College after coaching for the last year at Richard Stockton College.

“TCNJ has a great tradition, and I really respect that,” Muncan said. “I just want to build on to the already established team.”

“We want to make it to nationals and be competitive,” Muncan said when asked about her goals for the team now that she’s arrived.

Adding a former Olympian to the staff will surely do more good than anything else toward accomplishing that goal, but it raised a question — did anyone on the team challenge the new coach to a race, to see how their stuff measured up against someone who’s raced the world’s best?

“Not yet,” Muncan said, laughing. “But I only met the team a few days ago.”

For now, Muncan simply said, “The team is excited to be here, and I think we’re gonna have a great year.”

The Lions begin their season this Saturday, Aug. 31, when they host the Blue/Gold classic at Rosedale Park in Hopewell, N.J.

Last fall, the men’s cross country team won its 19th consecutive NJAC title and sent several athletes to nationals, while the women’s team came in second at regionals.