Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
Kari Wolfe is a firm believer that you have to earn everything. Whether it be sports or in life, Wolfe learned that lesson growing up in Harvey, North Dakota, a town of roughly 1,700 people. The centrally located town forged Wolfe into the tough competitor she is today for North Dakota State track & field.
Yet, in many ways, Wolfe had to carve her own path. Her track & field career seems to have flowed forward thanks to those Harvey values. Wolfe did not begin throwing javelin until her junior season of high school. The following season, she was a North Dakota state champion in the event.
As she moved on to North Dakota State, Wolfe was a self-proclaimed “project” for coach Justin St. Clair. In her true freshman season, she was the Summit League’s runner-up in the javelin. The following year? Wolfe found herself as the conference champion in the event.
Not bad for a “project”.
However, Wolfe has been able to climb the ranks in collegiate javelin thanks to an attitude she learned in Harvey. She learned from an early age, that you can’t expect things to go your way 100 percent of the time. It’s hard work that allows you to succeed.
In that sense, Wolfe has earned all of her success. It was not given nor was it handed to her, it was self-made thanks to her small-town values.
And after an extended absence from competition, Kari Wolfe is ready to pick up where she left off.
Growing up in Harvey, how did you put into action that small-town work ethic we are all used to hearing about?
The biggest contributor to that hard work ethic is that there isn’t anybody to tell you to do something. We don’t have any trainers saying these steps make you better. There is no coach that specializes in one event. If you want to be better, you have to do everything you can on your own. It’s basically all up to you. In a Class B school, there are no kids in the weight room, there is nobody putting in extra work. Usually, the kids that put in the work are the ones that get to go to a Division I program.
There is obviously a lot of pride when a small-town athlete goes to a big school like NDSU. How special is it to have your entire community behind you while you compete here?
When you walk into the grocery store, you’re going to know every single person there. That is an advantage because everyone is watching for you in the newspaper and online. I know basically the whole town of Harvey follows BIson Throws on Instagram. They are always looking for my name and that is a very humbling feeling. It’s something to be proud of and you get held to those expectations which betters you as an athlete and as a person. That really instills good values.
Was NDSU and being a part of this throws program on your radar at all in high school?
I was really new to javelin because I had only started throwing it at the end of my junior year of high school. So, I really didn’t know what I was doing. When I came on my visit, coach [Justin] St. Clair told me that if I came to NDSU that he would make me the best I could be. That really sat with me
and that weekend, I signed. I really had no doubts.
Was coming to Fargo an eye-opening experience since you were coming from a smaller town?
I remember walking around campus and thinking that this campus is basically my whole town. It was a little scary because there are a bunch of random people compared to in Harvey where you know everyone. I was always comfortable in Harvey and I think NDSU made me become uncomfortable, but I think that was the best thing for me.
People talk a lot about the lack of competition due to COVID-19. You have waited even longer considering you last competed in the spring of 2019. What have been some of the challenges in this extended break you have had?
I haven’t competed since outdoor of sophomore year which is a long time. It really was a downer when the season got canceled. I was really sad because the training was going so well, but I knew I had to keep training all summer. I had to keep that hope and keep that drive. If I lost it, it would be a lot harder to come back and show up ready to go. Keeping that drive and motivation and hope that there will be a season this spring.
You touched on how you didn’t start throwing javelin until your junior year of high school. In that vein, where have you seen yourself improve in your time here?
I have gained a lot more body awareness because in high school, you don’t really train anything specific. One day you could be running and that is your practice. My biggest leap is everything, honestly. When I came here, I was throwing the javelin like a baseball and Justin said that I would be his project and that he was going to turn me into a real javelin thrower. I wanted to do everything I could whether that was listening or being really coachable. If you looked at my freshman year, people probably had a lot of doubts about me.
Obviously, it has paid off because the last time you competed, you were Summit League champion. How have you gone about setting goals for yourself for this season and beyond?
I really think the COVID-19 break was a real blessing for me. It gave me a lot more training time and time to grow. I would say my goals are to be one of the top competitors in the nation this year. I have already proven it, I know I can do it. I just need to stay focused and trust my training and my coach. I’ll be ready.
In your mind, what is the best part about growing up in a small town?
The biggest advantage of growing up in a small town is that you are always humbled. No matter your accomplishments, how big they are or what sport you play, you know sports is not your life. There is a lot more to life than sports and I think growing up in a small town those values are instilled in you. No matter if you get last place, the world is not over and all you have to do is keep with it and keep working hard. I think that is what got me here.