Karina Joiner knew the 100-meter hurdles field at the high school state meet at Hamline University was competitive. But she finished as a state champion. It didn’t hit her until she saw her family cheering.
“It was just kind of crazy,” Joiner said. “It was so weird. I just won state.”
Being a state meet participant was nothing new for Joiner, who just finished her junior year at East Ridge. Her freshman and sophomore runs laid the groundwork, according to hurdles coach Abby Adkins. In 2014 Joiner placed seventh in the 100 hurdles and 10th in the 300 hurdles.
“Her work the past two years helped make this year possible,” Adkins said.
How good is Joiner? Many of her performances are record-setting. She broke nine records this year. She set new records in the finals in the Suburban East Conference championship meet (14.43 seconds in the 100 meter, 44.75 seconds in the 300) and Class 2A, Section 3 meet (14.16 in the 100, 44.00 in the 300).
“Just steadily dropping times every meet,” Joiner said.
She also beat the in-house record at Wisconson-River Falls at the start of the season, besting times set by high school and collegiate athletes.
“It’s exciting when somebody works hard and has a great attitude, gets to experience the success that they’ve worked for,” Adkins said.
There isn’t an athlete who works harder than Joiner at being physically and mentally prepared, according to girls’ track and field co-head coach Lloyd Ness.
“That is really one of her strengths,” he said. “The bigger the meet, the more she really focuses.”
Joiner started track in seventh grade and moved up to the high school team as an eighth-grader.
“I was a gymnast, so I figured I might be good at it,” she said. “My sophomore year is when I really got into it.”
Her raw speed and flexibility served her well. Adkins describes Joiner as tenacious, a good leader and self-motivator, and humble. Adkins said she knew Joiner was a special competitor from her section meet as a freshman, when she was the fifth-fastest seed but went on to win.
Joiner came into this past season with a little extra motivation. She has a hurdling collegiate career in her sights and knew recruiting would pick up this past year.
“I figured it was my most important year, for sure,” she said. “I was just going a lot harder in practice. There was just a lot more work put into it this year.”
To that end, Joiner has decided not to return to the East Ridge gymnastics team for her senior season. She was a captain and helped lead the Raptors to fourth place at state this year. Gymnastics is hard on the body, and she doesn’t want to risk injury.
The decision is bittersweet.
“I’ve loved it, and I enjoyed it,” she said of gymnastics. “I just got so nervous to go back. I didn’t want to risk it.”
On the track, if Joiner improved one thing this year, “it was definitely speed,” she said. She has the big picture figured out. It’s the little technical aspects that she’s focused on now. In the offseason, she practices and hits the weight room every day.
“We have the foundation and the base, now it’s just kind of perfecting those things,” she said. “The time I put in, it’s enjoyable.
“It’s fun work.”
So many accomplishments and shattered records already to her name, but Joiner still has goals. She hopes to drop another half-second off her times and be in the 13-second range for the 100s.
“I’m going to train a lot harder in the offseason … so I can come in really strong,” she said. “I’m just looking to break a few more records this year.”