Kat­nik goes dis­tance to state meet

Top-ranked shot­put­ter from St. John Bosco com­petes with ‘war­rior men­tal­ity.’

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - ERIC SOND­HEIMER ON HIGH SCHOOLS eric.sond­heimer@la­times.com Twit­ter: @LATSond­heimer

It’s the fi­nal week­end of the high school sports sea­son and the last chance for fans to of­fer a heart­felt thank you to Matt Kat­nik, the na­tion’s No. 1 shot­put­ter from Bellflower St. John Bosco who has rep­re­sented ev­ery­thing that’s pos­i­tive about the prep sports ex­pe­ri­ence.

He will be com­pet­ing Fri­day and Satur­day at the CIF state track and field cham­pi­onships at Buchanan High in Clo­vis, then move on to USC, where track and field fans of the Tro­jans will gladly em­brace him — if they are big enough to get their arms around his 305-pound frame.

He grad­u­ated last month with a 4.5 grade-point av­er­age. He wore his cap and gown over his track uni­form dur­ing grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies in the morn­ing, then won the South­ern Sec­tion Di­vi­sion 3 shot­put with a record heave of 71 feet, 111⁄2 inches.

Five times this sea­son, he has sur­passed 70 feet.

“Oh, man, it’s a rush,” he says.

A sec­ond-place fin­ish at last year’s state fi­nal has mo­ti­vated him to reach a level of ex­cel­lence no one in the na­tion has been able to du­pli­cate this sea­son.

Kat­nik’s great­est as­set is his char­ac­ter. For three years, he was a stal­wart on St. John Bosco’s of­fen­sive line in foot­ball. He came close to quit­ting the sport last sum­mer be­fore de­cid­ing he couldn’t leave his friends. He risked the pos­si­bil­ity of in­jury that would have ru­ined his track as­pi­ra­tions, but he de­cided loy­alty was more im­por­tant.

“No re­grets,” he said. “It was so much fun.”

The Kat­nik chil­dren fol­low the stan­dards set by their par­ents, John and Michelle, who have em­pha­sized aca­demics and in­tegrity for their three sons and daugh­ter. Brother An­drew was the backup quar­ter­back at St. John Bosco to Josh Rosen in 2013, and with­out him fill­ing in for two games, St. John Bosco would never had fin­ished 16-0.

An­drew just fin­ished his fresh­man year at USC, where he joined a fra­ter­nity and is study­ing fi­nance. An­other older brother, John Sr., will soon grad­u­ate from USC af­ter play­ing at Pa­los Verdes High and has an in­tern­ship lined up this sum­mer with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers. A sis­ter, Claire, will be a sopho­more cheer­leader at Pa­los Verdes.

Kat­nik al­ways looks for his broth­ers to pro­vide guid­ance.

“I have so much re­spect for them,” he said.

Kat­nik is known for his war­rior men­tal­ity in the ring, but once the chalk comes off, he re­verts back to his easy­go­ing, friendly de­meanor.

“Last year, he was throw­ing at an in­vi­ta­tional,” said St. John Bosco throw coach Paul Diaz.

“A mom came up, ‘I’m go­ing to root for my son, but if he doesn’t win, I want you to win. I like you so much and see how you han­dle your­self among your peers.’ ”

For Diaz, Kat­nik is a throw­back to a dif­fer­ent era.

“God gifted him with great nat­u­ral abil­ity, but Matt achieves things through work­ing hard, be­ing ded­i­cated, sac­ri­fic­ing,” he said.

Kat­nik’s fa­ther is go­ing to have to fig­ure out what to do in the fall now that high school sports is com­ing to an end in the fam­ily.

This sum­mer could be the last time the boys are around the house for a while. Matt will be try­ing to make the World Youth Cham­pi­onships in Colom­bia in July. John is leav­ing for Pitts­burgh soon. And An­drew is tak­ing a cal­cu­lus class.

The fam­ily re­frig­er­a­tor will need to be stuffed.

“It’s al­ways im­por­tant to beat Matt to the din­ner ta­ble,” John Sr. said.

When he beats his broth­ers to the din­ner ta­ble, he’ll surely do it with a smile.

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

MATT KAT­NIK of St. John Bosco read­ies his shot­put in the South­ern Sec­tion track fi­nals at Cer­ri­tos; he placed sec­ond at last year’s state fi­nal.

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