Former WWU javelin thrower Monika Gruszecki, a two-time national champion and three-time All-American, has competed at the U.S. Track & Field Championships and U.S. Olympics Trials following graduation from WWU and recently graduated with a law degree from Gonzaga University. She is one of 31 interns as part of the 2017-18 NCAA postgraduate internship class, currently working in Enforcement at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. Gruszecki recently visited with WWUVikings.com to share about her experiences after graduating from WWU.
Q: What year did you graduate from WWU and with what degree?
A: I graduated in August 2011 – took a year-long hiatus in Germany from 2008-2009. Graduated with a B.A. in English Literature, B.A. in German, and Certification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Q: After graduating from WWU, give us a short description of how long you competed in javelin and what the experience was like at the USA Championships and Track & Field Trials?
A: The 2012 Olympic Trials were just around the corner, so I commissioned javelin-guru Duncan Atwood to be my coach and spent my first post-collegiate year dedicated solely to training. I worked odd-jobs (housecleaning, gardening, random commission for friends of the family) so that I could make enough money to afford training trips, my own javelins, etc. I made a lot of progress, and perhaps too fast, because in April 2012 I tore my ulnar collateral ligament… and had to sit out the trials.
2015 was a big year. I decided to take a javelin pilgrimage to Jena, Germany submit myself to the tutelage of The Great Petra Felke. Her and I had very similar body types and throwing styles. The gamble worked and after coming back home I posted a new 5m personal best. That got me into the 2015 USA Nationals and 2016 Trials, too. Both competitions were in Eugene. To be honest, the experience was somewhat surreal – but for perhaps unprecedented reasons. Here I was, suddenly in a prime position to take-off into a new athletic tier, and all the while I am more interested in the big deposition we had in a medical malpractice case or the results of a recent Supreme Court ruling. My professional career started to outweigh my interest in competition – not throwing, but just the hype of competition. As a result, throwing became a very private and intrinsic stress relief, but not something that I was eager to display.
Q: What made you decide to pursue a law degree?
A: My step-father. I was looking for placement to teach English and he nudged me into law. I have always wanted to effectuate change and solve problems – my step-dad saw this and suggested a law degree to nurture and direct that energy.
Q: You just graduated from Gonzaga, how was that experience and is that where you decided you wanted to stay in Athletics with your degree?
A: Gonzaga is stellar. Their faculty are committed to making J.D. candidates into stewards of the law. Upon completing my second year of law school, I had an “a-ha!” moment and found a unique compatibility between law and sports governance. That’s what studying law allows you to do – parse out the issues – which I believe makes a person uniquely qualified to solve some of the inherent structural issues that surround sports governance. That foundational understanding is necessary in looking forward to the future of college sport, Olympic development programs, and to be a steward for the future of track and field.
Q: Describe your current role at the NCAA and how that opportunity came about?
A: I am currently a part of the post-graduate internship program (PGIP). Specifically, I work in Enforcement, which is responsible for enforcing compliance between collegiate institutions (our membership) and the bylaws by which the NCAA is governed. I process the secondary and level 3 self-reported violations. Our motto: to give every student-athlete and every coach a fair chance to win.
Q: How has your time in Indianapolis been so far at the NCAA headquarters?
A: I miss the Pacific Northwest. And mountains. And nature… They have amazing fried chicken here though.
Q: What would you describe as your dream job after this postgraduate internship?
A: As I mentioned earlier, I am a problem-solver by nature. After this internship I will be working at a university’s athletics department. However, I hope to make sports governance a life’s work: providing insight into successful organizational practices, regulatory procedures and internal management. There’s a lot of information out there, including the experiences of failed organizations, which can provide a lot of insight into the world of sports regulation (for example, there’s 2-hours worth of reading on the Senate subcommittee regarding the corruption in boxing, see Senate Rept. 103-408. 103 S. Rpt. 408. CORRUPTION IN PROFESSIONAL BOXING). I’d like to be a legal authority on the matter.
Q: How did your time as a student-athlete prepare you for law school, professional competition in javelin and ultimately your current career path?
A: That’s a great question and very difficult to answer. The best I can come up with is that my interests, and therefore career, followed a natural evolution of what sustained me intellectually. I adventured through each endeavor and just followed my passions, and this is where I came out. Each experience built on the previous lesson, and that’s probably just how life goes.
Q: What is your fondest memory of WWU T&F, whether it be Pee Wee and the coaches or teammates? What made this program and WWU special to you?
A: I clearly remember the lump in my throat when I had to tell Pee Wee that I was going to leave the program and move to Germany. We were flying down to Stanford for an invitational and I couldn’t put off the news any longer. To this day I have never met anyone be as wise and supportive as Pee Wee. Although it must have been hard to let me go, Pee Wee said he understood I needed to follow my own beat and gave me his blessing. I had a lot of growing to do and Western provided the perfect springboard to do it.
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