Two years ago, Ratka Karac said she didn't even understand the concept of discus and shot put. She never participated in the throws in middle school. But now the sophomore is a Woodland Conference record-holder, all the same.
Karac took first in the girls shot put at 37 feet, 11 inches, setting a new league record at the outdoor meet when she competed May 16 at Pewaukee, and she added a first-place heave in the discus at 107-7.
"Coming into high school, my varsity basketball coach said, 'Hey you should try it out,'" Karac said. "I tried it out, and here I am. I'm just really lucky being able to enter a sport and be able to perform the way I have. I don't believe I have a lot of strength. One thing that really keeps me going is my attitude. I know last year, I was just very down and negative, and now I'm always smiling when I'm coming out of the ring."
It helps that, even as a sophomore, Karac is no stranger to the varsity stage. She's already a two-year varsity performer on the basketball team, and the 6-foot-0 post led the team in scoring (12.2 points) and rebounding (8.2) this winter en route to second-team All Conference honors.
She was first-team All Conference in volleyball as a sophomore, serving as middle blocker for a team that went 5-0 in divisional play for a league title. In track and field, she'll be among the favorites to punch a ticket to the state meet, though strong contenders in Oak Creek's Jenna Dankert and Mukwonago's Emma Wittliff will also be in the mix. Both edged Karac at the Myrhum Invitational earlier this year. Top-three finishers at the sectional reach state.
"It never really hits me until people say it," Karac said of the chance to compete at the year-end state meet in La Crosse. "I'm just a sophomore, and I have two more years to keep getting better. My coach really makes me focused, and (has said) 'Those are your two challenges and keep pushing yourself to beat them.'"
Karac's 37-11 eclipsed a mark that had stood since 2006. She also possesses the school record, having thrown 39-0 1/2 at the indoor league meet.
"My coach just kind of called me over and said, 'Try to beat this (mark), because I know you can,'" Karac said of the outdoor record.
Sports have kept Karac's schedule understandably busy, so she hasn't been able to take any recent visits to Serbia, the country her parents called home until they moved to New Jersey shortly before their only daughter was born.
"They were in danger, and there was a war going on," Karac said of Serbia, which experienced constant political unrest in the 1990s. "There were a couple family members in New Jersey who wanted to help. My dad has gone into detail (with me) of what happened there and what happened to him and my mom."
As the only child, Karac said she frequently helps translate for her parents.
Serbia took the silver medal in women's volleyball at the 2016 Summer Olympics, defeating the United States in the process, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that Karac's first love was, in fact, volleyball.
"I like the team (aspect), and volleyball is kind of laid-back," she said.
Strength training for all her sports has naturally played into a better showing in the throws.
"My freshman year I didn't lift that much, but this year, I've lifted more, and I think that's where I'm starting to build more strength," she said. "I still like the teamwork aspect of (track and field); it helps me when we support each other and challenge each other to be better in practice and competition."