Katie Larkin is no stranger to big stages when it comes to soccer. The senior forward from Draper, Utah, spent the summer playing with the United States Under-23 soccer team. The U-23 team is only one rung below the Senior Women’s National team – the team that competes in World Cups and beat Brazil to win the Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“It’s definitely an honor,” said Larkin, speaking of being selected to compete with the team. “While you’re there you’re always questioning if you deserve to be there... but once I had gone to a couple camps I felt very comfortable and like I deserved to be there.”
Larkin participated in four ‘warm-up’ games earlier in the summer that helped U-23 head coach Bill Irwin select the 18 players who would travel to Sweden to participate in the prestigious Nordic Cup.
A team from the U.S. has participated in the Nordic Cup for the last 14 years, and it has become a major event for the U-23 team. The U.S. has won 10 of the last 11 Nordic Cups, losing only to in 2006 to Germany. In 2008, the U.S. beat Germany in the championship game to win the cup.
“It’s been a great experience for her – she’s played with some of the best players in the country and played at the highest level there is to play” said BYU women’s soccer head coach Jennifer Rockwood. “She’s worked so hard to get there and is so deserving of that opportunity. Anytime you’re playing at that level...it should provide a lot of confidence and experience.”
Growing Up and Becoming A Soccer Specialist
As a child, Larkin played every sport she could compete in. Her nickname was “greased lightning”, and it wasn’t uncommon to see her suit up with the boys and play football, basketball and other sports. She took up soccer at the age of nine.
“I just love sports, but soccer was my passion and that was what I wanted to play,” said Larkin.
When asked when she knew soccer would be the sport for her, Larkin replied, “Since the first time I played – I was only nine. I loved it and I loved the running and I don’t like to run without a purpose.”
Continuing to play soccer and improve throughout her childhood, Larkin’s soccer career began to take off, reaching heights she had never even imagined. She began to play with a club soccer team, the Celtic Storm, when she was 11 years old. Before finishing her career with the club, she would be team captain three years (2000, 2002 and 2005), and would win the state championship with the team in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Larkin also became an integral part of the storied Alta High School soccer program as well, and was chosen as team captain in 2004. She also holds the school record for most goals in a season and most career assists. She was named 2004 NSCAA High School State Player of the year and was a NSCAA High School All-American in 2003 and 2004. She was also recognized as the 2004 Utah State MVP. She was also a National Pool player from 2002-2004.
Coming to BYU
Sporting impressive credentials, Larkin highlighted BYU’s 2005 nationally-ranked recruiting class. She noted that she had considered other high-profile soccer schools, but in the end decided that she wanted to make her decision based on more than a chance to play soccer.
“Katie is one of the people you want around,” said BYU women’s soccer head coach Jennifer Rockwood. She is a good example on and off the field. We followed her all over the country and were very excited when we knew she was coming to BYU.
“I could have gone places, but I’d wanted to go BYU my whole life,” said Larkin. “In the end I needed... to realize that soccer is only a small portion of where you go and I’m going to have to live with my choice and be happy about it and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
One aspect of soccer helped Larkin feel right at home with her new team.
“It’s always nice to know people, but not only did we play high school together, there’s six or seven of us that played on the same club team,” said Larkin. High school is just something you do because club’s not in the fall. Club helped the most, being able to play with them.”
Four of her Celtic Storm club teammates joined her at BYU. They included defender Karen Cook, defender Jessica Carter, forward Katie Fellows Hodgkiss and midfielder Whitney Feller. Three other current team members (sophomore defender Megan Richardson, sophomore defender Nicole Urry and freshman forward Stacy Bartholomew) also played with the Storm.
Chemistry Brings Friends, Wins,
Being close as a team has brought the Cougars success, which in turn has led to high expectations for this year’s team, which is picked to finish first in the Mountain West Conference.
“The great chemistry on the team has helped push us into the national spotlight as a program,” said coach Rockwood. When chemistry is established between the players it gives the team a core to rely upon and that brings success.”
“I feel like this year we’re going to do amazing,” Larkin said. “I feel like we’re going to do well because everyone’s putting everything they have into it.”
Not only has her prowess on the field opened new playing opportunities for her, Larkin has also been named to 2008 Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy Watch List. The Hermann Trophy, which is presented to the overall best NCAA soccer player each year. Larkin was also a candidate for the award last year, along with defender Jessica Carter.
“Sometimes it’s hard, and it’s really uncomfortable,” said Larkin, referring to the spotlight that tends to follow players nominated for awards. “The awards don’t mean as much to me as if we were to get a team one. It’s an honor and it’s nice to get them, but they don’t mean as much as a team award,” Larkin finished.
“Katie is very humble,” added coach Rockwood. “Often she doesn’t believe how good she is. She loves the game and she is all about the team. None of the major individual awards or recognition is a concern for her.”
Regardless of how the team finishes this season, Cougar fans will know that it was a team effort. Larkin, in her last season starring on the pitch at South Field, will no doubt leave an impressive personal legacy, but her largest contribution will have been as a team player and leader. Never one to place herself above others, her on-the-field accolades serve only to bring notice to a girl who is playing the game she loves with people she loves.