Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2008

Karnitz completes collegiate eligibility as UAA’s best

Hammer thrower has better senior season after adjustments

August 7, 2008

A tumble down the mountain was an actual occurrence for De Soto High 2004 alumnus and University of Alaska Anchorage track and field athlete Scott Karnitz, but in no way a microcosm of his hammer-throwing career at UAA.

Karnitz was out on a climb in late winter, a little too early still to be climbing, he said, because there was still an abundance of snow on the ground. He and some friends climbed to the top of Flattop Mountain, near Anchorage, and got to the top when they realized they couldn't simply climb back down to the base.

"We were about 3,500 feet up, and we'd seen people skiing down the face and we're like, 'We'll be fine, we'll just slide down," because it was too slippery to climb back down," he said. "We started sliding and got too much speed and ended up tumbling end over end all the way down the mountain."

The next day, with a sprained ankle to show for the experience, Karnitz read in a local newspaper that somebody else had tried to do the same thing and they had been air-lifted off the base of the mountain.

In the track and field realm, however, Karnitz's final two years of college eligibility went much smoother, as he claimed the UAA record in the hammer throw as a junior with a toss of 143 feet, even, and was part of a Seawolves squad that finished second in the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

Before competing at UAA, Karnitz was a two-time National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship qualifier in the hammer and weight throw at Neosho County Community College.

His efforts at Neosho earned him several scholarship offers from NAIA schools, and a couple of Division III offers, but the only NCAA school that came beckoning was UAA.

"I just thought it'd be a good experience and I didn't think I had too much to lose because if I didn't like it, I could probably come back," Karnitz said. "It seemed like it would be a real big experience."

The experience started with some adjustments, however. Alaska's long, dark winters and sun-filled summer days meant Karnitz had to adjust to practicing inside until the end of April.

The Alaskan sunrise, near Anchorage occurs shortly after 10 a.m. and sets shortly before 4 p.m. in the winter and rises around 5 a.m. and sets around 11 p.m. in the summer.

"The dark in the winter is a big deal, and it's just a long winter," he said. "In Kansas during track season you can start going outside at the end of February in a hooded sweatshirt, where (in Alaska) you're inside until the end of April. The snow starts to melt off in April."

Another adjustment, his junior year, was not being able to lift weights or even practice throwing. Karnitz suffered a stress fracture in his shoulder early in his junior campaign, so throwing at actual events was the only time he could us it. That meant he didn't feel he was at full strength.

Nevertheless, the school record he shattered his junior year suggests he was near full strength at one point, or at least it all came together on one throw at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational early in the season.

He went on to finish eighth in the hammer at the GNAC Championships, a performance he duplicated the following year. In all, he recorded two top-5 finishes, his best finish a third-place finish at the Washington Outdoor Preview.

"My junior year I was just more getting used to Alaska," Karnitz said. "I was a lot more comfortable my senior year."

Karnitz's top finish in his final year was a fifth-place finish at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Collegiate Classic. He also earned academic all-conference honors, and helped UAA to a second place conference team finish for the first time in school track and field history.

Karnitz came into that meet ranked 10th, but beat out two people ranked ahead of him for an eighth-place finish, contributing one point to the team standings. He pointed to that as his proudest achievement.

"Just being able to score one point helped the team out, so that's what I'm most proud of," he said.

Now the political science major and history minor will complete his degree next May, and he hopes to enter law school sometime after that.

Given the adjustments he's already had to make in his athletic career, other adjustments seem less likely to make him stumble, let alone tumble.

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