Track and Field: Nkanata wraps up decorated Pitt career, sets Olympic goals

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By Dan Sostek / Staff Writer

It doesn’t exactly take much to know that Carvin Nkanata is one of the best in the world. Just look at the stopwatch.

On March 15, Nkanata, a Pitt track and field sprinter, finished running the 200-meter dash, and the stopwatch read 20.52 seconds — the fourth fastest time for the event at the NCAA indoor finals.

“It felt really good,” said Nkanata, the senior from Summerville, S.C. “It let me know that all the work I’ve put in since September was worth it. I’m using it as continued motivation.”

On Saturday, Nkanata followed his ACC title from the winter indoor 200-meter by winning the 200-meter outdoor race at the ACC championships in Chapel Hill, N.C. In his two years at Pitt, he now owns two Big East 200-meter championships and two ACC 200-meter championships.

A week after setting the third best time, 45.46 seconds, at the Tennessee Relays, Micah Murray and Charles Ross along with anchoring senior Brycen Spratling — whose 45.59-second 400-meter dash earned a gold medal and marked the fourth-fastest time in the country — Nkanata helped earned a silver medal in the 4×400 meter relays. The team’s time of 3:05.94 was 0.05 seconds behind first-place North Carolina.

Pitt head coach Alonzo Webb said he didn’t know that Nkanata had this level of potential when he transferred from Iowa Central two years ago. Webb even had doubts that anyone else knew.

“I knew he was pretty good,” Webb said. “But I definitely didn’t know how good he was going to be. I don’t even think Carvin knew how good he was going to be.”

Nkanata, who chose to attend Pitt to get away from his home in Fayetteville, S.C., is quick to credit Webb in helping him realize that potential.

“[Coach Webb and the team] have had a huge impact on my career,” he said. “They motivate me and they push me to be the best, both on the track and off. They make everything better.”

Webb, a three-time Mid-Atlantic District Coach of the Year, has seen that growth in him, particularly during Nkanata’s senior campaign.

“I’ve seen a lot of development and growth just this past year,” Webb said. “He’s a lot stronger and faster, but the big thing is his flexibility. He used to not be able to even touch his toes.”

Now, as his collegiate career begins to wind down and he prepares to build on improvements from his tenure at Pitt, Nkanata has more on his mind. Particularly, four digits.

“2016,” Nkanata said, referring to the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. “That’s what I’ve been working towards. It drives me to better myself and get that result.”

Nkanata said that if he makes the cut for the Olympic Games, he wants to represent Kenya, his family’s homeland, but also said that he understands the scope of work left to put in.

“I need to work on the little things,” Nkanata said. “[There are] some other technical things I need to improve on. Basically anything that will give me the best possible chance to make it to 2016.”

Webb has no doubt that Nkanata’s goal can be realized.

“Absolutely I think he can get there,” Webb said. “I think he has the talent and the desire to do that, and that’s what you really need. It’s not an easy thing to do, of course. It’s a select few. But he has the tools to get there.”