St. John Bosco shotputter Matt Katnik carries high hopes into state meet

Eric Sondheimer
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St. John Bosco shot putter Matt Katnik carries high hopes into state meet

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, 11 1/2 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. "He's really old-school thinking."

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.

"I'm pretty sad," he said. "It went by pretty quick."

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.


California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field Championships

Where: Buchanan High, Clovis, Calif.

When: Friday, 5 p.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m.

Admission: Friday, $10 for adults, $7 for students; Saturday, $12 for adults, $8 for students.

Parking: $5.

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