Matthew Katnik’s approach to athletic competition and life might be exemplied in his experience at the Mount San Antonio College meet earlier this year.
The top-ranked junior shot-putter in the U.S., Katnik was battling the state’s top shot putter, Dotun Ogundeji from Madison, San Diego, who led by an inch as Katnik made his last throw — over 67 feet, good enough for first place. But an official ruled a foul, negating the throw.
Except that coaches, parents, fans and student-athletes checked their cell phones and cameras and saw, quite clearly, that Matt had not fouled and it was a mistake by the official. Under the rules, however, no video review was allowed.
But Matt, though disappointed, told his coach and teammates not to worry about it. “I will have other chances this year,” the 16-year-old replied.
Indeed he did, winning both the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 shot put on May 24 and the CIF-SS Masters Meet May 30, and finishing second in the State Championships on June 7.
Recently, the All-CIF lineman for the Braves’ state championship football team was named one of 14 student-athletes to receive the Dr. Jim Staunton Champions for Character Award winners for the 2013-14 school year. The award is part of a CIF program to develop 16 principles of coaching, competing and teaching called “Pursuing Victory with Honor” — and to combine “a fierce competitive nature” with the tenets of winning and losing with character.
Student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and schools who demonstrate these qualities are honored at the awards dinner, set Sept. 29 at The Queen Mary in Long Beach. The dinner is funded by the annual Champions for Character Golf Tournament played every year (this year on June 17) at Rio Hondo Country Club in Downey.
Among the qualifications, a recipient:
—Teaches, enforces, advocates, models and emphasizes the value of good sportsmanship above winning.
—Has a zero tolerance policy regarding taunting, bullying, hazing or cheating.
—Treats everyone with respect.
—Shakes hands and actively demonstrate sportsmanship during contests.
Noted St. John Bosco athletic director Monty McDermott: “Matt is very competitive and winning is important to him, but never at the cost of competing unfairly or hurting his competitors or teammates. He never talks trash or berates his opponents. You will never see Matt receive late hit penalties or personal fouls. He plays incredibly hard from snap to whistle, but is able to draw that line between being aggressive and exhibiting fair play.”
In addition, Katnik — carrying a 4.13 grade point average — assists others with tutoring, and takes time to put others in front of his own needs. Jack Hastert, who taught him for two semesters of Religion, praises his attitude.
“His presence in the class made everyone else in the class a better student,” said Hastert. “Matt is almost always smiling. Because of that the entire class has a more positive vibe to it. He is continuously raising his hand to answer questions, offer opinions, and give answers, and encourages other students to do the same — and is supportive of them whether their answer is right or wrong, or whether their opinion is the same as his.
“He is always seeking answers and reasons for things so he asks a lot of good questions and does not seem afraid to put himself out there, even if it means he might be teased. This, in turn, gives other students a higher comfort level to do the same.”
Away from the classroom and the field, Katnik is active in “Los Hermanos,” a group which meets on Sundays to discuss community issues and any looks for strategies to help the less fortunate. Recently, he worked on the group’s “Operation Gratitude” project, as well their Torrance Beach Clean-up. He also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, Precious Life and as a sixth and seventh grade basketball coach at the Palos Verdes Basketball Association.