Rookie of the Year: Khris Justiniano

The annual Justas LAI are rapidly approaching and with that the end of this year’s athletic season. As we anxiously await this year’s season competitions, let’s take a look into the Rookies of the Year from 2017-2018.

Khris Justiniano is a 20 year old sophomore student, and is the captain and setter of the UPRM volleyball team. Initially motivated by her sister to practice volleyball, she has been non-stop playing volleyball for 13 years starting at the young age of seven years old. This past year she and the volleyball team became volleyball champions for the third year in a row. “Being a three-time champion gives me an enormous satisfaction and being part of two of them is very emotional” said Khris of the matter who also stated that her expectations for her first year as an athlete were to help the team win for second year in a row.

Before joining the UPRM team, the captain had represented Puerto Rico in international competitions. She was part of the sub 18 team that played in Cuba in 2015 and the Sub 20 team that played in Costa Rica in 2017. She regarded these experiences as one of the most impactul in her life and she was excited “to exalt her country.”

Besides these experiences, Justiniano states that she has made some sacrifices to be the best athlete she can be. “My strongest attribute as an athlete is my compromise and dedication I have to the sport, to improve and keep getting better every time.” Because of this Justiniano recognizes that the life of a student-athlete is difficult and involves a lot of sacrifice since you have to dedicate a lot to studies and sport equally, she says that she has sacrificed time from her social life and even studies to become a better athlete and dedicate herself to the sport. However, she recognizes is all about the balance. “You create the balance by utilizing any free time off training, practices and games and dedicate to your studies.” These sacrifices have pay off since she won rookie of the year the past year. She mentions that this recognition has served as a motivation to strive for the best and achieve a greater performance.

Even if the volleyball team has has many accomplishments, impending cuts to the athletic programs could put this team (among many) in danger. She believes that these cuts are very unfair and thinks that there are other options out there, like unnecessary expenses, that the administration could look into so the athletic programs don’t get affected. “They want to cut expenses to athletes that proudly represent the university and its possible that these budget cuts make some student not be able to keep studying and it could cost them their career and future.” Besides these budget cuts Justiniano also stated that the team doesn't feel like there is support from the administration of UPRM. Anything they has achieved has been done by the team without any help and low resources.

In spite of everything, she notes that being part of the team of Colegio gives her a lot of pride and satisfaction. Justiniano states that they have always felt the support of the public and it was even more noticeable this past season in the final games. “It was very emotional for me and the team to see all the support we had, including la banda colegial.” She also mentions that what makes her team stand out is the humility of each of her teammates and that passion they bring to every game.

Regarding the future of the team Justiniano mentions that there will always be changes with different players arriving every year and some that leave. As for her personal future she would like play professionally for a few years and if there is the opportunity to represent Puerto Rico she would accept it. She notes that her biggest motivation behind every game is to appropriately represent the university. That passion, focus and tranquility is what characterizes Khris who states, “Volleyball is more than a sport for me, it is a passion that has been present throughout my entire life.”