By Emily Franzenburg
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
There’s more to Kansas volleyball’s Karina Garlington than meets the eye.
Although she ranks third in the Big 12 averaging nearly four kills per game, the sophomore outside hitter has a few other tricks up her sleeve.
Growing up in Aurora, Colo., just outside of Denver, Garlington’s athletic career began almost before she could walk – by skiing down her driveway. With a mother who was an aspiring Olympian skier but instead chose to start a family, skiing is in Garlington’s blood. In fact, the entire extended family still gathers at Christmas and other holidays to hit the slopes together.
“My parents have been skiing since before I was born, so I learned how to ski at a very young age,” Garlington said. “When I got a little older I switched to snowboarding. It was a large part of my life growing up. It really helped me learn how to overcome fear and to do things I didn’t think I could do, especially in athletics.”
Learning to mentally prepare for competition has been a common theme for Garlington. Besides skiing, she competed in gymnastics for 10 years before giving up the sport because she “kind of got too tall.”
Garlington's focus then turned to diving. From eighth through tenth grade, Garlington competed on a club team as well as in high school. She made it to nationals three times with her club team, placed seventh at state her freshman year and fifth at state as a sophomore. Her gymnastics experience served her well.
“The transition was really easy and I excelled pretty quickly because I had a lot of the background down,” she said. “It seemed like something fun and I just decided to give it a try and I ended up being pretty good at it. My sister was with me in both gymnastics and diving, so it was also something that we could do together.”
In fact, she was so good at diving that she almost chose a career in that sport instead of volleyball.
“When I was recruited by my club team, which was a really competitive process, they told me I had to choose between diving and volleyball because it would be too difficult to do both,” Garlington said. “It was a tough decision and I was really close to picking diving.”
For Garlington, the team aspect of volleyball was the deciding factor. She liked the fact that there were people counting on her to do her part. She knew how to prepare herself for individual competition, but she loved sharing the court with her teammates.
Like the two previous sports, volleyball came naturally. She began playing in ninth grade and earned a spot on her high school varsity team as a sophomore.
“I enjoy working with other people to make a team win, rather than just myself,” she said. “Volleyball was the most fun for me because it was really my first experience with a team sport and I loved it. I developed a lot of strong bonds and friendships with my teammates.”
Garlington was a member of both a club team and her high school squad. Her high school team, Grandview, won state titles her sophomore and junior seasons and placed second in her senior campaign.
Kansas volleyball coach Ray Bechard believes Garlington's varied sports background taught her how to push herself mentally and physically.
“I think she’s made as big of gains as anyone has from freshman to sophomore year in terms of leadership,” Bechard said. “Obviously, her background in sports has prepared her to take a more prominent role early in her career.”
A team leader and key offensive contributor, Garlington also is one of the Jayhawks' top defenders. She is fourth on the team with 92 digs. Her versatility makes her valuable.
“There’s a certain level of independence and responsibility for your own performance in an individual sport,” said Bechard. “And there’s a level of focus required to be successful at those individual sports. It’s important to use that focus no matter what sport you’re involved with, and that’s exactly what Karina’s done.”