Kansas City athletics welcomes Olympian Muna Lee as sprint coach

It’s 2 p.m. on a Wednesday inside the ground floor of the Swinney Recreation Center. Nestled in the corner, four sprinters are sweating their guts out on a stationary bike. Roughly 15 feet away stands a woman dressed in a blue, water-proof hoodie, athletic pants and running shoes.  

She observes the work taking place. She nods and implores words of encouragement, “Keep those legs moving; just one more rep to go.”  

This woman is Muna Lee, and those 10 words are a vital first step for her sprinters’ confidence and for her career. Lee, 37, is embarking on her first season as Kansas City’s Assistant Sprint Coach.  

A Kansas City native, Lee also enjoyed success as a seven-time National Champion sprinter at LSU. She is a world champion, and a member of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams. Lee’s bloodlines in athletics are robust too, as both her parents starred at the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff in football, basketball and track.  

“They [parents] definitely came from an athletic background. I was always in that environment,” Lee says. “I also played a lot of sports growing up, which helped me [in my track career]. My swimming gave me endurance. Gymnastics and basketball gave me power, quickness and made me become explosive.”  

She enters with a strong pedigree at her side. Prior to this year, Lee spent two seasons coaching track and field at Hendrix College in Little Rock, Arkansas. Before that, she was a volunteer assistant at Texas A&M and LSU.  

Despite only coaching the Roos for a month, Lee wants to establish a few goals for her sprinters from now until the indoor season starts in December.  

“I want them to understand the fundamentals, teaching them more about the process of training and why they’re doing something,” Lee says. “Also, the proper mechanics [of running], like how to step right, is important. It’s kind of like you got to build all those baby muscles up because some of them run very wild. I got to stay on them about how to use their arms, how they got to match their legs.”  

By laying the groundwork early, Lee hopes her teachings can lead to success for every sprinter. One of them in particular, senior Malon Lee (no relation to Muna), hopes to benefit from her coach’s practices.  

Malon came to UMKC in her sophomore season after transferring from Missouri Valley College. She competes in the 100 and 200-meter dashes and features record times of 12.12 seconds and 24.65 seconds, respectively. By the end of the season, she wants to dock a full second off both her meter runs.  

In order to accomplish these feats, Malon needs to sharpen her speed. One approach she’s taking is listening in on Lee’s twice-a-week-sessions, focused on technique, sprint starts and finishes.  

“Just from what she’s saying, I’ve learned to run upright more with proper form,” Malon says. “I’ve learned that if you can’t run the right way, then you can’t expect to sprint at all. I can finish really well, but if I can implement a better start, then I can drop my time. Having a sprint coach, like Muna, who can work with me on that is important.”  

The relationship between an athlete and a coach can be fragile, yet vital at the same time. Establishing trust with one another is the first step to a rewarding journey. After the first week of practice, Malon already realized the relationship with Lee can be a strong and assuring one. 

“When I first met her, she met my expectations,” Malon says. “With her being an Olympian and running for LSU, she was really welcoming. I could tell she was happy to be here. Even starting off with the workouts, it’s been a major change, just from her whole attitude and vibe.”  

As a younger coach, Lee believes her age and experience playing collegiately and professionally helps her relate to college athletes better.  

“I do relate better to them,” Lee says. “A lot of coaches that are older and have coached for a while started younger. They didn’t go through the whole professional process like I did. There are certain things I can feel that are different in college as a pro, like being technical in the way you run.”  

In addition to being personable, Lee also takes great pride in coaching in the city where she’s from. She wants to carry the legacy of growing up in Kansas City into her own sprinters.  

“Now that I’m coaching, I want to be better,” Lee says. “I’m coaching in the city that I’m from. I believe there’s a lot of talent here, and I want to showcase that. I had friends from [Kansas City] that could’ve made it, but they didn’t have the proper coaching. I want to be able to change that.” 

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