By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala - Not even a pair of surgeries could keep Auburn’s Valentina Muzaric from making one last trip to this week’s NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Muzaric redshirted in 2015, recovering from right shoulder and left foot surgeries. For nearly a year, she was unable to throw or lift.
There was talk that she might not be able to recapture her two-time All-America form. Muzaric would not entertain the thought.
“I knew I wasn’t finished,” she says with a laugh.
“I was sure I was going to come back. I just didn’t know how much time I was going to need,” Muzaric says. “I wish I was more careful, because I was hungry for the result, and I was trying to make up the lost time. So now I’m kind of having injury after injury because I wasn’t really careful going back into practice. I just wanted to make up the lost time.”
Muzaric qualified for her third NCAA Outdoors in shot put, finishing fifth in last month’s NCAA East Preliminaries with 16.92m/55-625.
“I would like to be All-American one more time. Before I got hurt, I was NCAA runner-up. And I was first-team All-American the year before that.”
Muzaric, from Croatia, transferred to Auburn from Virginia Tech after her freshman season.
“I always wanted to come to Auburn because my coach from back home (Edis Eklasevic) was two-time NCAA champ when he was at Auburn, and he loved the coach, so I heard a lot about it,” she says.
“When I got familiar with the system and everything, I transferred here, because I always wanted to be here. Since then I love Auburn. I’d never leave,” Muzaric says.
Valentina isn’t the only Muzaric on Auburn’s track and field team. Her sister, Ivana, is a freshman who was a discus champion in Croatia.
“Everything is her first, my last,” Valentina says. “It was amazing being with her for her first SEC Championship. This whole year was quite emotional for me.”
As skilled as Muzaric is in track and field, she’s equally accomplished in the classroom, where she is pursuing two master’s degrees at Auburn.
“I graduated with an undergrad in Management in December,” Muzaric says. “I started my first semester of grad school in Management Information Systems, which I finished in the spring. And I’m starting an MBA program in the fall.”
Muzaric plans to continue her shot put career after NCAAs, hoping to one day represent Croatia in the Olympics.
“I love what I do. I really love shot put. This is the thing that defines me,” she says. “I’m 6-4, and I’m a big person. So wherever I go, people are like, ‘Oh my goodness, what sport are you doing?’ It’s kind of like this is something that I found myself in.”
Only six months after walking again post-surgery, Muzaric hopes to complete her Auburn career the way it began, as one of the NCAA’s best.
“It’s going to be super emotional, because I love this school,” Muzaric says. “It’s my last time representing my school. Last time being an Auburn Tiger, and doing something that I like. My goal is to get, one more time, All-American, and finish strong.”
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) June 1, 2016
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer