This frosh NCAA triathlete is juggling a full course load, three sports and sorority life—and crushing it all.
University of West Alabama freshman Caitlyn Muncher, who hails from the small town of Jasper, Ala., was a natural fit for triathlon. She grew up a competitive swimmer since age 4 and also ran from a young age, finishing her first half-marathon with her mom at age 13. “I just picked up the bike when my dad found out that tri was an [NCAA] emerging sport,” she says. Then she raced her first triathlon in July 2015. “I started competing and fell in love with it.”
She was clearly a gifted swimmer and runner and had a strong desire to continue learning the sport of triathlon. Those combined traits caught the eye of UWA’s assistant tri coach Allie Nicosia, who’s now proud to call Muncher a member of the university’s tri team. “I was especially impressed with how quickly she picked up the bike,” Nicosia says. “Once we continue to develop her talent as a cyclist, that will definitely be a huge asset to her racing.”
Muncher is one of the fortunate young women to compete in triathlon as an NCAA athlete; as of early 2017, only 13 colleges and universities had varsity tri teams, and Muncher is one of only four women on UWA’s squad. She’s also the only freshman. “I would still compete in tri as a club sport because I enjoy it very much,” she says. But racing as a varsity athlete is a dream come true.
“With triathlon becoming an NCAA sport, it allows me to compete in not only one but two of the sports I’ve grown up competing in,” she says. Muncher’s tri coach has her race on the cross country and track teams to stay strong and quick on her feet. She’s also taken on a full course load as a comprehensive biology major with plans to become a pediatric dentist.
On top of all that, she’s in a sorority. She joined Phi Mu to make sure she found new friends and stayed involved in campus life. “I initially tried to talk her out of being in a sorority before she arrived on campus,” says Nicosia. “But she assured me that her grades and triathlon were her most important commitments.” And she’s stayed true to that promise. Muncher skipped the sorority’s formal in favor of competing in a triathlon that weekend. “I just have to stay organized and keep my priorities straight,” she says, admitting it’s a difficult balance. “My sorority is very understanding that triathlon comes first.”
Fortunately, some of her commitments overlap; both her sorority and the tri team require a number of study and service hours. “I spend a lot, or most, of my time in study hall,” she says.
Muncher’s clearly a motivated woman. She has a drive that most coaches dream of, Nicosia says. “When I say she never gives up, I mean it. She crashed twice during our regionals race in Greensboro [N.C.] and still managed the top spot on our team, which qualified her for nationals.”
Muncher would say it’s her love of the sport that keeps her going. “Triathlons are very challenging, and competing in them allows me to meet other people who enjoy the sport, enjoy working hard and challenging themselves.”
Her favorite race so far was USAT’s High School National Championship in Clemson, S.C., because she saw how many people her age enjoyed the sport. “When I crossed the finish line, they announced that I had signed to compete for UWA in college. It was an awesome feeling.”