Kate Carnavale always knew she was fleet of foot through basketball and other running opportunities.
The Fox Chapel junior didn’t get a chance to display her speed in a competitive track and field environment, however, until eighth grade. Her first race in her first meet, the 100-meter dash, was unconventional but successful.
“My dad encouraged me to give it a shot,” Carnevale said. “ I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t use spikes or a (starting) block. I started standing up.”
She fell behind, but she made up ground and eventually finished in 12.6 seconds. Right then, she knew, with a little more seasoning and instruction, she would have a chance to succeed.
Fast forward two years, and Carnevale was on the podium at the WPIAL Class AAA championships as one of the area’s fastest sprinters.
She was second in the 200, fourth in the 100 and earned a spot at states in both. She owns the school record in both events and was selected 2017 co-MVP of the girls team with senior Caelan Miller, a state qualifier in the 1,600.
Now, Carnevale said, she hopes to challenge for WPIAL titles and make the podium at states.
“Kate’s attention to detail and being goal-oriented has really helped her be successful,” said Justin Patterson, Fox Chapel’s assistant coach for sprints. “We had her set goals at the beginning of the season. They are very concrete numbers for what she wanted to run in the 100 and 200 and what places she wanted to be in. She is dedicated to her strength workouts and workouts on the track. After last year, she is really motivated.”
Carnevale’s top finish at states last year was 15th in the 200. Her time of 25.58 in the semifinals was better than her 25.80 at WPIALs.
She ran a 12.6 at WPIALs in the 100 but was not able to repeat or better that performance at states and went 12.74 to finish 23rd.
Injuries have been a part of Carnevale’s story since seventh grade when she hurt her ACL. She also has dealt with an additional knee injury and a broken foot.
Injury caused her to miss her entire freshman track season.
Ongoing knee issues forced Carnevale to give up basketball after last season. It’s a game she had been playing since kindergarten.
“It was one of those things I kind of got pushed into but ended up loving,” Carnevale said. “I think everything happens for a reason. It was a lot better switching from basketball to track for the sake of my body. Basketball took too much of a toll on my knee with all the twisting and turning and changing directions.”
Basketball isn’t totally out of her life as she coaches seventh- and eighth-grade girls at her former school, Christ the Divine Teacher in Aspinwall.
Carnevale now fights a different injury: shin splints.
“I’ve seen a lot of different doctors for them, including a new one last Friday, and I think it’s starting to help,” she said. “They’ve been unbearable at times. I would be walking and would fall over I was in so much pain. I didn’t know shin splints got that bad.”
At home meets, and sometimes at away meets, she finishes a race and runs to the ice table for treatment.
“Kate is really good at doing the little things she needs to do to stay as healthy as possible,” Patterson said. “She does great stretching before and after a workout or meet. We are always asking her how she is feeling and what we can do to help her. Last year, we put her in the pool toward the end of the season to do some workouts to limit the foot strikes on the track.”
Through all of the pain, however, she still is able to compete, and Carnevale has won both of her individual events at every meet, including Thursday at Pine-Richland.
“This year, I changed most of my running form and my start out of the blocks,” she said. “I think I am a lot more prepared than I was last year. Last year, I was just running. I focused a lot more on the little things this year, and I think that will make a difference.”
Efficiency, she said, is key.
“Last year, I was using a lot more energy than everyone else and wasn’t getting that push off the track,” Carnevale said. “I was putting a lot into it and not getting out as much as I could have. This year, I can hold my speed better because I am not wasting all of that energy.”
Carnevale said she’s looking forward to several big meets on the schedule, including the Butler Invitational on Friday and either the Pine-Richland Invitational or the Baldwin Invitational on May 4.
“I just want to have the best competition ahead of WPIALs,” she said.