Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

From last place to national champion

How Karnitz led UWO to multiple D-III titles
Morgan Feltz / Advance-Titan — UWO head gymnastics coach Lauren Karnitz encourages her team before a match last season.

UW Oshkosh alumna Lauren Karnitz evidently doesn’t like losing. After taking over the position of head gymnastics coach at UWO in 2008, Karnitz helped the Titans to the top of D-III gymnastics, winning  back-to-back national championships in 2022 and 2023.

Competing on the team from 2003-06 as a student, Karnitz, who enters her 16th season at the helm of the Titans, was completely new to the world of coaching when she joined the staff at a time of need. 

“I just knew that they needed someone to come on at the last minute,” she said. “The first year was more of an interim position and emergency type of hire, and then they kept me on after that.”

Karnitz continued to learn and grow throughout her time in the position, leading her to be appointed head coach in 2014.

“I think things started to shift around 2014 when [the] chancellor made me full-time because I was part-time for eight years prior to that,” she said. “Having that be my sole focus and priority, it was really nice to see the shift in the talent level.”

This past season the team was able to claim its second national championship in a row, which Karnitz acknowledged was difficult.

“It was a lot more stressful than you would imagine,” Karnitz said. “I mean, when you win a national championship for the first time that’s exciting, and no one expects much from you, and then it’s kind of like everybody expects it.”

Winning the second straight national championship was a rewarding experience for the team and Karnitz herself. 

“It’s really cool when I sit back and look at these last couple of seasons as a whole, and how grateful we are that we’re in this position right now,” she said.

The team currently holds the conference and national championship titles from 2020 through today, which Karnitz said is an amazing achievement. 

But, the team is always looking forward to their next goals.

“It’s just a surreal experience to sit back and take that all in, but obviously once one championship is done, you’re looking forward to the next season,” she said. “Every now and then I have to sit back and reflect, but [then] it’s on to the next.”

While the team has won many awards under her leadership, Karnitz herself has won many individual coaching awards, including coach of the year. 

She received her National Coach of the Year award in the years that the team went to the championships. Now, the pressure is high.

“We were underdogs, so it’s very interesting to see that people want to see an underdog [but] they still want to see you bring them to a championship,” Karnitz said. “But once [you’ve won] two [national] championships, they somehow think that you’re not coaching anymore.”

But Karnitz is proud of her accomplishments and what they represent in the coaching community. 

“It’s validation from your peers because of what your team is doing. So ultimately, a coaching award is because of the results of your team,” she said. “It is cool to have your peers recognize you for the successes because that’s ultimately who’s voting on those awards.”

Beyond the awards, Karnitz is proud of many of the teams she has coached.  

“There were some athletes who came in that never saw team success like others did,” Karnitz said. “But I thought that they deserved it; they came in trying to help me develop [the program], but they never got  the opportunity to see what a successful team fully was.”

Karnitz is proud to be able to tell these girls that the team is successful now because of their efforts. 

Morgan Feltz / Advance-Titan — Karnitz hugs one of her gymnasts after a performance last season.

“Being able to tell them that like where we’re at now is because they took a chance on us … and I could build our team off their successes. … They chose to continue because they believed in what we were doing, and I think that that’s bigger than winning an award.”

Kerrie Turner, the current head gymnastics coach at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), coached Karnitz during her time as an undergrad and saw the same belief in Karnitz when she was in school.

As an undergrad, Lauren was a very hard worker and she had a great attitude,” she said. “She wanted the team to win together and she understood the importance of being a great teammate.”

Turner is happy to see Karnitz coaching now due to the spirit Karnitz brings to the program. 

“She cares so much about UW Oshkosh gymnastics and it really shows,” she said. “She has been incredibly successful and I think she was always meant to be a great coach, and she is making such an impact in her student-athletes’ lives.”

The two will be competing against each other this upcoming season, which Turner is looking forward to.

“We are excited to welcome UW Oshkosh to BGSU this season,” Turner said. “I can’t wait to see Lauren and the team. [It’s] such a special opportunity when we have the opportunity to compete together.”

With Karnitz and her coaching, she said it was her belief in the program that brought her back to coach after competing for the university. 

“I’m doing this to make these athletes the best they can be and make the school the best,” she said. “I don’t do this because I want to climb up the ladder.” Rather, she said she likes to give back to the university, as well as call up her former teammates when the team wins nationals.

She said being married to another UWO alumnus (he was a pitcher on the baseball team) also makes it fun to give back to the university and gives her a different mindset as a coach.

“I tell my athletes the reason why I care so much is because I was [them],” she said. “I literally stood there in [their] shoes in this gym.”

Emily Buffington, a junior on the team and a national champion individually, has felt a positive impact from Karnitz’s coaching. 

I have been fortunate to have Karnitz as a coach,” Buffington said. “She has also never given up on me or my abilities in the gym and out of the gym.”

Buffington is thankful for Karnitz and her coaching throughout her gymnastics career. 

She allowed me to do college gymnastics and I will always be grateful for that,” she said. “Obviously, like any other coach, she can be tough, but I wouldn’t be the athlete or person I am without her.”

Karnitz has been recognized for her coaching not only through many different awards from different conferences, but also throughout the community. 

One of the things Karnitz has gotten to do as coach this past summer was throw out the first pitch at a Milwaukee Brewers game, which was a special experience. 

“I think what made that even more special for me is [that] I got to do it because of the accolades that the UW Oshkosh Titans achieved,” she said. “For my  husband … to watch me do that it’s kind of like this whole full circle type of thing.”

Karnitz said she also had fun interacting with one of the players at the game.

“It was really nice when Christian Yelich told me I did a good job,” she said. “So I figure if the franchise player of the Brewers thought I did a good job, I feel like I’m good to go.”

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