By: Mark Maloney
SEC Digital Network
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - G Guerrieri, who coaches Texas A&M women’s soccer, knew he was getting an offensive-minded forward.
Pat Henry, A&M’s track and field coach, was happy to land a talented multi-event athlete.
That was three years ago, when Annie Kunz became a prized recruit of both coaches.
Now a junior, Kunz is a track and field honorable-mention All-American, team offensive MVP in soccer and a Southeastern Conference Honor Roll student.
“She’s pretty special,” Guerrieri said. “The fact that she can split her time and still be good at both endeavors is amazing. The only thing for us is it makes you wonder if she was to concentrate on one for a whole year, how good could she really be? No matter what it is. It just goes to show how special she is that she can be such a superior athlete and not even have to be full-time into it. You wonder how good she could be.”
While collegiate competition has been tough, her high school days in Wheat Ridge, Colo., were a bit more hectic. She says college seasons have enabled her to make marked improvement in all seven heptathlon disciplines.
“I really hadn’t done any practice,” she said. “In high school, soccer and track in Colorado are in the same season, so I would literally go from a soccer game to a track meet and, during the week, I would do pretty much soccer. My sophomore year I think I went to three track practices. So I would go into track meets and just do my best.
“So coming to A&M, I really had nowhere to go but up because I never had training in any of the events. So I’ve improved in everything.”
Hurdles, high jump and shot put are her favorite events. She says she has had a difficult time mastering technique with the javelin, although she still placed fifth in last spring’s SEC heptathlon and sixth in the 2012 Big 12 meet.
“I think any dual-sport athlete, whether it’s football-track or soccer-track or volleyball-track, it’s always a little bit longer learning curve,” Henry said. “Any good athlete that has those opportunities … it does create some challenges for them, there’s no question. They have to be a little more patient about some things than other athletes. That’s probably one of the things that she’s done a good job with because she gets right up in it and she does a great job for us. If she were just a track athlete, she might be a little bit ahead; she might be a little further along. If she were just a soccer player, she might be able to be a better soccer player.”
A 10-time State medalist in Colorado (10 gold, four silver) over three track seasons, Kunz won four 4A titles as a senior for Wheat Ridge High School – 100-meter hurdles (14.09), 300 hurdles (43.30 final, 42.34 prelims), high jump (5-2) and triple jump (38-2).
In soccer, she was twice Colorado’s Gatorade Player of the Year, a Parade All-American and selected to the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team.
She comes from an athletic family, starting with father Terry, who won a Super Bowl with the 1976 Oakland Raiders.
“Everyone calls me ‘Terry in a dress’ because I think I get my athletics from my dad’s side,” Annie said. “He’s a huge influence on my athletics. … He’s been there; he’s been at the high level, the elite level of sports. So he knows what it takes to get there. So even though he didn’t play soccer, he knows what it takes to get to the next level.
“He’s definitely my role model. … I go to him for advice.”
On a soccer scholarship to A&M, she is a track and field walk-on. All along, competing in both sports was a priority. She picked the Aggies from a final list that included Virginia Tech, Florida State and North Carolina.
She hit the books as soon as she arrived in College Station.
“But the programs they have here -- the tutors and the academic advisors – make it so much easier on the athletes,” said Kunz, who describes her dream job as becoming an ESPN sideline reporter. “So it’s not too hard to try to do time management and get it all done.”
She also hit the ground running at A&M, scoring 14 goals and seven assists to place second on the soccer team in points as a freshman. Last year, she led the Aggies in points (27), goals (13), shots (75), shots on goal (28) and game-winning goals (6). Thus far this season, she has three goals and an assist through her first nine games.
“I just think I’ve been a lot stronger as a player, physically and mentally. … When you get to college, everyone is the star player from their high school team, so you’re kind of challenged mentally,” Kunz said. “I’ve improved on that a lot over the last couple of years.”
Guerrieri said he had no qualms about letting Kunz participate in two sports.
“She was that important to us. She was a kid that we knew that even as a part-time player she was going to be able to help us out,” he said. “She’s a really gifted goal-scorer. She finishes a high percentage of her scoring chances, legitimate scoring chances. Because of her height and the angles that she’s able to get on people – because she’s 6 feet tall – she’s a matchup nightmare for our opponents. On top of that, she’s a really, really competitive kid. So she’s got a very strong desire to achieve.”
So how good could Kunz be if she focused on one sport?
“I think she could be good as most players in the country,” Guerrieri said. “And I think Pat Henry would tell you the same thing, that she has the gift to be as good as she wants to be as a heptathlete. At the same time, we’re both very happy to have her and we both enjoy the relationship that he and I have. We’re perfectly willing to share for the benefits.”
Said Kunz: “I just feel really blessed.”