Boxing comes first, but Olayo-Munoz loves to run for the Bulldawgs

Apr. 23—In the boxing ring, Joscelyn Olayo-Muñoz has never been a runner. The winner of 15 national amateur titles, she never hesitates to stand in front of her opponents and match her skills against theirs.

Her skills prevail far more often than not; that's why she's known in boxing circles as "Jos the Boss."

Yet, on the track, competing for the Las Cruces High School Bulldawgs, she runs and runs well. This weekend at a meet in Alamogordo, she'll seek to trim the few tenths of a second off her 800-meters season best needed to qualify for next month's Class 5A state meet.

Her listed season best, achieved in winning the 800 at the April 13 Therman Jordan Relays in Deming, is 2 minutes, 26.56 seconds. The Class 5A girls qualifying standard is 2:25.62.

"I'm right there," she said. "Hopefully, at this next meet I can qualify for state."

Olayo-Muñoz, 16 and a junior at Las Cruces High, has been running track since her freshman year while at the same time pursuing her stunningly successful boxing career.

The cross-training effect was an important part of her decision to run track, Olayo-Muñoz said in a phone interview, but there's more to it than that. Boxing is an individual sport, and entering high school she was eager to compete alongside her Bulldawg classmates.

"I'd never been involved in team sports," she said, "and I wanted to get involved with school as well."

Running had always been part of her training regimen for boxing, she said, "and I knew my cardio was better than most. ... I knew I wasn't going to be that slow, but I didn't know if I was track speed fast."

Turns out she was, once she and her coaches identified the events that were best for her. She runs the 800 and occasionally the 400, as well as the 4-by-400 and 4-by-800 relays.

As a freshman, Olayo-Muñoz ran second in he 800 at the District 3-5A meet, qualifying for state, and finished seventh at the state meet in Albuquerque.

As a sophomore, she again ran second at District and seventh at state — but also ran the anchor lap as the Bulldawgs' 4x800 relay team finished fourth.

In qualifying for this year's big-school state meet (May 17-18), there's a rub. She's scheduled to leave on Sunday for Chula Vista, California, where she'll participate in Team USA evaluation camp. She'll be there through May 12 and will miss the district meet on May 11.

The top two finishers in each event at District qualify for state, even if they haven't achieved a qualifying mark. But for Olayo-Munoz, unable to run at District, Friday's Bob Sepulveda Invitational in Alamogordo is a do-or-die proposition (though she could still compete at state in a relay if the Bulldawgs qualify).

Boxing has always come first, Olayo-Munoz said, and she has a prior understanding to that effect with her coaches at Las Cruces High. Her teachers have been understanding as well.

"Because I fly out on Sunday for Chula Vista," she said, "they've been getting my work together to make sure I have everything in order."

Education in her family, she said, has always come before track — and even before boxing.

My mom (Crystal Olayo) and my stepdad (Danny Melendrez, also her coach) have always told me school comes first," she said. "... If I'm not doing well in school, if my grades aren't good, then boxing, something I love to do, will be taken away from me.

"If I stay on top of my schoolwork, I get to do boxing, and that's what I love to do."

Regarding track and the state meet, Olayo-Munoz isn't likely to lose conditioning while in Chula Vista.

"We're going to have three-a-days," she said. "I'll be training three times a day Monday through Saturday, resting Sunday and repeat the following week."

At stake is a spot on USA's team at 106 pounds for the World Youth Championships, scheduled for November at a site and exact time yet to be announced.

Olayo-Munoz has competed all over the United States but has yet do do so overseas.

The World Youth Championships, she said, would be "one of the biggest competitions I'll ever have in my career."

Also on Olayo-Munoz's schedule for 2024 are the Junior Olympics (June 22-29 in Wichita, Kansas), and USA Boxing National Championships in December in Richmond, Virginia. She has won titles in both events in past years.

And beyond? The 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, she said, are on her bucket list.

So, though, is a pro career.

"By 2028, I'll be 21," she said. "So my coaches and I are still trying to weigh out our options ... to see what's best for me."