KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When it comes to Kansas City runners, Muna Lee is a household name.
In her words, Lee is, “A two-time Olympian. A 20-time All-American. Most decorated athlete at LSU.”
Lee made her Olympic debut in 2004, and made the team again in 2008, running the 100 and 200-meter races.
These days, you’ll find the Central High School graduate back at her old track working with young athletes.
With athletes, the mantra is simple.
“I just want them to do better than they did the last time," Lee said.
She’s also sharing some of the same lessons her coaches gave her at their age.
“They let me know that I could get out of here. I can always come back. That's my thing, always coming back and giving back, doing everything I can for people that want to go on and be successful... go to the Olympics," Lee said.
Frederick Douglas Murrell III was one of Lee’s first track coaches.
“Seeing her, her work ethic and still taking on what she learned back then on to what she's developed now means so much," Murrell said.
“It’s fun to watch her take that next step in her career, in her life, of going into coaching, giving back what she learned over the years, it's kind of special," Clarence "CB" Cadenhead, the current head coach of the Palestine Sports Association, and a former coach of Lee’s added.
One of Lee’s young sprinters is a 15-year-old named Zaya Akins.
“I be in the zone when I start and I get out. I'm like, I'm cool. But beforehand, I'm having mini panic attacks trying to calm myself down,” Akins shared. “I just try to tell myself to keep breathing and relax and just focus on my race."
CB thinks Akins could be the next Olympic sprinter from Kansas City.
“I mean, she has all the tools. She reminds me of a young Muna Lee at this age, so by her being basically coached by another Olympian she's already putting herself in that position,” he said.
It’s not lost on Akins.
“Gets to teach me everything she knows. What she experienced, she gets to just let me know the inside scoop of everything," she explained.
After all, Akins has the same goal Lee did at 15… to make it onto an Olympic team.
“Representing country, running against the best from everywhere, the whole entire world. It just seems cool to do, see who's the best," she said.
Lee said her goals have changed, but she knows this is what she’s meant to do.
“I feel like I'm being successful right now just getting the girls better,” she smiled.