Moriarty senior sprinter Antonio Muñoz has won medals and set a school record as a member of the Pintos track team, but he recently reached a milestone that is rarely achieved by Moriarty High School student-athletes.

Last week, Muñoz signed his letter of intent to run track for the University of New Mexico after his 2024 high school graduation. He is Moriarty’s first student-athlete to commit to a Division I university in nearly 20 years.

Muñoz made his commitment official during a virtual signing with UNM on Nov. 8.

Moriarty sprinter Antonio Muñoz, signs his letter of intent to compete at the University of New Mexico as he is flanked by his mom, Lizeth Muñoz, right, and Pintos track and field coach, Peter Romero. Credit: (Ger Demarest/For The Independent)

And the next day, in front of a good-size crowd in the lobby of Moriarty High School’s main gym, Muñoz took center stage.

He sat at a table draped with a green tablecloth with Moriarty High School Pintos printed on the front. Flanked by his mother on one side and his track coach, Peter Romero, on the other Muñoz wore a red New Mexico Lobos T-shirt.

A large, green and white backdrop covered with Pintos’ logos hung behind them and Muñoz ceremoniously put pen to paper, marking his commitment to trade in his Moriarty green and white for Lobos cherry and silver.

Dozens of friends, classmates, and current and former coaches threw confetti, clapped, cheered and took pictures with their phones.

“It feels amazing, you know, it’s the one time I get to do this,” Muñoz said.

A speedy sprinter, he won silver medals in the Class 4A boys 100-meter and 200-meter individual races at the 2022 state track and field championships as a sophomore. And at the 2023 state track and field championships last May, Muñoz earned silver medals as Moriarty’s anchor in the 4A boys 4x200m and 4x400m relays, and he captured the gold medal in the 400m race in a time of 47.84 seconds.

“It’s just nice that he’s being rewarded for his work and talent,” Romero said about Muñoz. “He’s a special kid, there’s no doubt about it, his talent is special — it’s not something you see every day.”

Romero said Muñoz is not only one of the top three sprinters in 4A in the 100m and 200m events, he owns Moriarty’s school record in the 400m race.

Romero said he thinks Muñoz has “a shot at getting the state record for the 400 (at the state meet next May).”

That mark belongs to Jonah Vigil of Taos, who ran 47.01 in 2018 – an all-classes best for New Mexico. Vigil went on to star at D-II Adams State.

Nov. 8 kicked off the 2023-24 NCAA National Letter of Intent signing period for most D-I and D-II non-football sports. Every year during the signing period, thousands of student-athletes across the country sign their commitments to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.

According to the National Letter of Intent website, letters of intent are agreements between the prospective student-athlete and the NLI member institution. Signing the letter means the student-athlete agrees to attend the institution full time for at least one academic year and the institution agrees to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year.

Muñoz said UNM is giving him a full-ride scholarship for all four years.

Muñoz is one of several New Mexico top prospects who signed letters of intent last week, but he is the first Moriarty student-athlete in quite some time to sign a letter of intent to a D-I school.

In fact, during Muñoz’s Nov. 9 signing ceremony, several coaches and administrative staff in attendance discussed which former Pintos signed letters of intent to D-I schools, and when it last happened.

“D-I is rare, he’s the only one I know of since I’ve been here,” Moriarty athletic director Joe Anaya said of Muñoz. Anaya has been at Moriarty since 2012.

“I think there are only three,” Moriarty principal Rob Adams said.

“We’ve thought of three,” added retired Moriarty Hall of Fame coach and athletic director Joe Bailey, who was with the school for 35 years. “Bobby Moore in 2004, KC Pritchard in ’03, and Mindy DeGroot in 1985.”

That would make Muñoz just the fourth in Moriarty history to sign a letter of intent to a D-I university.

And Muñoz knows his achievement is a big deal.

“Some people don’t get the chance to do this, especially at the D-I level,” Muñoz said. “I know this is a whole other level, there are a lot of expectations and I’ve got a lot of people looking up to me.”

Muñoz said he’s been running since the sixth grade. He said he intends to play basketball for the Pintos over the winter and has his sights set on improving his times so he can break the state record in the 400m race.

“I know I can get it,” he said of the record, adding that his top priority is preparing for the college level.“It’ll be a step up, and I’ve gotta go above and beyond.”

Romero said he believes Muñoz has the work ethic and caliber to make it as a college sprinter.

“He’s one that’s willing to put in the work, and when you have the talent and you also have the work to go along with it, that’s when special things happen,” Romero said. “I think he’ll be very successful.”

Muñoz said he’s ready to put a lot of things aside so he can concentrate on moving up to the next stage of his running career.

“I’m prepared to just let everything else go, let go of partying, let go of all the nonsense and just focus on that goal, you know, because the college level is a whole different thing, and if I perform and do good, that could be my career if I want it to,” he said. “So, I’m very excited right now, but soon it’s time to get back to work.”

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