Heptathlete Brings Variety of Talents to Track and Field Team

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Author: Ryan Graff

Track and Field star Anna Kurnizki (sophomore) is one of only three current heptathletes in SCIAC and the first heptathlete at Occidental in an entire decade. In addition to competing in the seven heptathlon events — shot put, javelin throw, long jump, high jump, 100m hurdles, 200m and 800m —  Kurnizki also participates in the 400m hurdles, pole vault and 4×4 relay during track and field meets. The 5’10” Kurnizki is a threat not only due to her variety of events, but also because of her innate athleticism and unwavering tenacity.

She cultivated these talents at Chico High School (CHS), where she played volleyball and ran track. She aspired to be a hurdler and follow in the footsteps of her mother, who was also a track and field athlete in high school and attended Occidental. Kurnizki’s athletic skills progressed quickly throughout her four years at CHS. During her senior year, she earned an All-League award for volleyball, finished second in her school’s section for track and was named the track team’s Most Valuable Athlete.         

Kurnizki wasn’t recruited onto any college teams out of high school and was unsure of the process required to become a collegiate athlete. “It was actually by chance that I got involved with athletics here. After I got admitted to Occidental, I expressed my desire to compete at the next level to one of my high school coaches at a clinic that I attended. He had a connection to some local programs, and it wasn’t long after that I got a call from Occidental’s coach,” she said.

Kurnizki joined the Occidental track and field team last year and took up pole vaulting for the first time. Kurnizki works closely with Occidental’s pole vault coach Andy Steben,  who is one of the best in Southern California. She attributes many of her talents to him. “It’s really great to be coached by someone like Coach Steben. A lot of pole-vaulters go to him to improve their skills. He teaches some of the most effective techniques and fundamentals. It’s a great process,” Kurnizki said.

Now Kurnizki competes in the pole vault event at every Occidental meet and has become one of the most talented in SCIAC and Division III sports.

In addition to the pole vault, Kurnizki acts as a utility athlete for the Tigers. Since she has so many events in her repertoire, she shifts her focus and participates in different events for each meet depending on where she’s needed. Her ability to partake in a variety of events makes her unpredictable and nearly impossible for opponents to prepare for. To top it off, her willingness and desire to perfect her multitude of events and adhere to a hectic schedule makes her a very desirable track and field athlete for Occidental’s coaching staff.

Although Kurnizki admits that her schedule can get chaotic at times, she embraces it and is thankful that she gets to do what she loves on a daily basis. Despite her athletic commitments, she is still able to balance a full class load as she pursues her sociology major and even finds a little free time for herself and friends. “It’s very convenient that our meets are strictly on Saturdays. It makes it easy to plan out the week and ensures that we never miss class,” Kurnizki said.

Kurnizki continues to work hard and has her sights set on April 9, when the Tigers will travel to Pomona-Pitzer for their next meet. She is also excited about her upcoming heptathlon, which will take place at Mount Sac in mid-April. “I can’t wait for my heptathlon. It’s an honor to be able to go out and represent Occidental in a meet that it’s been out of for the last 10 years,” Kurnizki said.

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