Throwing Everything Into It
April 17, 2009
By Larry Watts
She may not be the top shot putter in the Big Ten, but Kari Schmidt is ready to take on all comers in a dance contest.
"I'm the best dancer on the (track) team," says Minnesota's effervescent graduate student. "We had a dance competition at the airport once and I won hands down.
"We have a lot of fun during those flight delays. You have a bunch of computers with all kinds of music and the next thing you know is we start dancing. I busted out my Riverdance impression, but the mood was right and I can do a pretty good Irish jig."
It should come as no surprise that the 6-foot-2 Lindstrom, Minn. native describes herself as the "whack" on the team. "It's a role I can fill successfully," she says with a laugh. "I do a lot of boisterous things and am such a free spirit, but that comes pretty easy since this whole team is a lot of fun."
But don't think for one moment this 23-year-old is a flake because the two-year captain knows when and where to channel her energy. It took her only three years to complete her degree in human resource development and she'll be receiving her master's degree in the same field this spring. And between training, competition and night classes, she is putting in 15 hours of work each week in the athletic department's human resources department.
"I was like most freshmen when I came here; I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I took a bunch of different classes to find out what I really might enjoy," she says. "I ruled out the medical field because I get nauseous around broken bones and blood. And even though I come from a family of teachers, I thought I might eventually get sick of the school atmosphere since I've been around it all my life and then what would I do with that degree?
"I wanted something with more flexibility and movement because I don't like monotonous things. I took a few human resource development classes and fell in love with it. My professor was very inspiring and he put a real fire in my belly for human resources, so I took it and ran with it.
"The beauty of human resources is you can work anywhere," she adds. "Every company has a human resources department because people need to get hired, trained and developed. I would love to mix my two favorite things, sports and human resources, and work for a professional team or a university, but right now I just want to get some interviews."
Wherever she lands a job, Schmidt knows she'll have to start out on the bottom rung of the ladder. But that is a position she is very familiar with since she started out on the bottom rung with the Golden Gopher throwers as a freshman during the 2005 season, when she took a redshirt.
"Going from high school to college was a real eye-opener," says Schmidt, who was a state champion and two-time state runner-up in the shot at Chisago Lakes High School. "Your confidence is certainly tested when you go from one of the best at what you do to the bottom rung of the ladder. It was a struggle, but it really builds character and tests what you're made of. You have to come in and fight for everything, accept criticism and be willing to change everything you have done.
"Looking back, I'm so glad it happened the way it did. It's gotten me to where I am and I couldn't be happier with that."
Although she had thrown the discus, the transition to college also meant Schmidt had to learn how to throw the weight (indoors) and hammer (outdoors).
"There's nothing in the world to prepare you for the weight or hammer because there's no movement in any other sport that's transferable," she says. "How many times do you spin around in a circle, lean and throw a 20-pound ball (weight throw)? It just doesn't happen! And the hammer is it's own kind of beast. The bottom line is it just takes time."
Her best effort in the weight throw, 53-10.25, ranks 10th in Minnesota indoor history. She has a best of 156-7 in the hammer and hopes to reach her goal of 180 this spring.
But Schmidt's forte is the shot put. Her best indoor toss of 49-9.75 placed third at the Big Ten Championships this winter and ranks ninth in school history. Outdoors, she passed the 50-foot barrier for the first time last year and placed seventh at the Midwest Region Championships with an effort of 50-11, the seventh-best mark in Gopher lore.
Schmidt has already qualified for her fourth trip to the regional this spring. But this year, she would like to take it one step further to the NCAA Championships.
"I enjoy going to the regional, but that's not the end," she says. "Last year I was seventh and the top five advanced. I wasn't upset because I was ranked 12th in the meet and threw my best. It's an individual sport and you can't control what others are doing. You just have to put confidence in yourself."
When it comes to confidence, Schmidt says she is at an all-time high this year. She owes a lot of that to her work with throwing coach Lynne Anderson.
"Lynne and I have built a good working relationship through the years," she says. "I feel comfortable telling her what I can and can't do. And she tells me whatever is on her mind as well."
Unlike the prototypical shot putter, Schmidt is longer and leaner. She says she relies more on rhythm than power.
"It all comes down to position and applying force to the ball for the longest period of time," she says.
But as boisterous as she claims to be outside of the ring, unlike other competitors, don't expect to hear much from her when she's in it.
"I have this theory on grunting," she says. "You have to be at a certain level to grunt and get away with it. As much as I want to be loud and grunt, because that's my personality, I feel like I need to throw over 50 feet every time to warrant a grunt. You never know, this may be my year. Right now I just make a lot of internal noise and no one hears it, but I'm thinking about it (grunting)."
Her best throw this spring is only 48-10, but she's the first one to say it's still early.
"It takes a little time to rebuild," Schmidt says. "Maybe I need to eat a few more cheeseburgers."
However, she quickly adds it's hard to believe there are only two months left in her Minnesota career.
"The kiss of the devil is I'm trying to savor every moment I have left, but when I do that the time seems to move even faster," she says. "Then I start thinking about what I'll be doing next year, and that's when I really get depressed. I won't be in college, traveling all over the country or dancing with my teammates.
"As much as I have loved college, I am really excited about the next chapter in my life. I'll be starting at the bottom rung again, but I'm always ready for a good challenge."