Big 12 Campus Correspondent
In the world of sports, physical toughness is not the only trait necessary to be successful; often, mental toughness is key. Mental toughness is what many athletes need to get through those moments when finishing seems impossible - the ability to push through when the body says "no."
Texas Tech senior cross country runner Michelle Guzman has been honing her mental toughness since junior high.
"I started running in junior high." Guzman said. "I was playing volleyball, doing cheerleading, and playing fall softball when my dad said, 'I don't want you to do cross country because you're doing three other sports right now.'"
Like many stubborn teens, Michelle decided that parents aren't always right. She placed second in her first meet and first in her second.
Since then, Guzman has been building a name for herself. After graduating high school, Guzman joined the Red Raiders in 2007 and helped carry the team to two Big 12 Championship titles and a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2009.
Guzman attributes most of her success to the mental toughness she has learned through not only competitive running but also life experiences.
"My dad passed away when I was a junior in high school, so I think that has made me a lot stronger, especially as a leader," she said.
Guzman says her mental toughness kicks in when races become physically challenging - from the middle of the run to the finish line.
"That's when everyone else is hurting, too," Guzman said, "So you want to try to be above them when they're hurting too. You're all hurting at the same time, but who wants it the most?"
Guzman also said her dedication to her teammates motivates her. She said knowing that her teammates want to win, makes her want it even more. But dedication does not stop at her teammates; Guzman is also dedicated to her fellow student-athletes.
After her freshman year, Guzman became involved in Tech's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), which serves as the governing body for Red Raiders student-athletes. Her second year in SAAC, Guzman was nominated an officer.
This year, Guzman serves as the SAAC president. As a prominent student-athlete, Guzman's goal is to get more student-athletes involved.
"Sometimes I feel like student-athletes are just here to play their sport," Guzman said, "But when you help the community and you get your name out there, it gives a good name to Texas Tech. I really feel like there's more in this world. You're only going to be here for four years, so what are you going to do with those four years?"
Guzman's leadership qualities carry over to the cross country team. She said she tries to encourage her team during practices, especially when they are tough. She also said she provides the "spirit" for the team at big meets, including ribbons and temporary tattoos.
Texas Tech coach John Murray said Guzman has been an important member of the team since Day One.
"She's been with us the entire time," Murray said. "She keeps on going, and she works really hard and has done a good job, not only running but also with the leadership of being at practices and working hard at everything."
Guzman has participated in three Big 12 Championships with a top finish of 14th. She has also participated in two NCAA Championships, including last year when Texas Tech was fourth.
She has finished in the top 20 in every meet this year, including three times in the top 10. With the Big 12 Championships this Saturday, Guzman is approaching her final collegiate cross country races with the determination to be the best.
"We got fourth last year, but I want to win a national title because I know a lot of people aren't expecting that," Guzman said.