Carly Horn is only 11, and she’s already a national champion.
Horn, the daughter of Mark and Emily Horn of Paonia, won a gold medal in Intermediate Kata at the USA Karate Nationals, held July 10-13 in Reno, Nev.
“I was pretty shocked, surprised,” said the petite seventh grader, who didn’t realize at the time that she placed first in the nation.
“Carly is very, very humble about the whole experience,” said Emily Horn. “She just stepped out there and did what everybody expected her to do.”
Horn took up karate almost seven years ago at the urging of a friend, and her trophy case is already in need of expansion. She trains at North Fork Karate and is the first student from the dojo to compete and place at a national tournament. Emily and 9-year-old younger brother, Matthew, also train at the Paonia dojo.
On her path to nationals, Horn competed against girls from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Guatemala and other countries, earning bronze medals in Kata and Kumite (sparring) at the USA Open, and silver in Kata and bronze in Kumite at the Junior and International Cup, held last April in Las Vegas.
“She’s just a natural,” said Shihan Rick McGavin, who along with wife Jennifer McGavin, teaches traditional Shotokan karate. North Fork Karate opened in 2005 and currently instructs between 70-90 students, ages 4 to mid-60s.
Horn has several factors working in her favor, said Shihan McGavin. She has supportive parents who have been there for her from the beginning, and she is a willing participant. During training for nationals she trained five to seven days a week.
North Fork Karate, which teaches traditional Shotokan karate, is affiliated with the International Martial Arts Association. The dojo’s instructors are highly qualified, said Shihan McGavin.
Jennifer McGavin, Dr. Dory Funk and Doris Danielson are among the dojo’s black belts and all are Team USA-certified karate officials, which translates to higher-quality instruction. The dojo also attracts top instructors from around the world. “None of this would have occurred without that training,” said Shihan McGavin.
The Horns said they are grateful to the dojo, and for the tremendous amount of community support Carly has received. A grant from Pam and Joe Cocker and the Cocker Kids Foundation helped fund trips to tournaments and a karate camp, where she trained with Tom Scott and Cheryl Murphy, both elite Kumite competitors and members of the U.S. Olympic karate team. “That was huge,” said Emily. “All of the people in the karate circle are very approachable.”
Don’s Market allowed her to hold bake sales at the store, and many people donated, whether or not they took baked goods. “We are eternally grateful to them,” said Mark Horn. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without that support.”
Now that she is a national champion at the intermediate level, Carly must advance to a higher level.
She is also eyeing international competition, which will mean international travel. “We’re going to have to make more cookies,” said Mark.
Throughout her training Carly has maintained honor roll status at Paonia Junior High. She also plays soccer and plans to compete in other sports, including volleyball, basketball and track. She would also like to be a place kicker in football.
Karate is “a great foundation for other sports,” said Emily Horn, a second-grade teacher at Garnet Mesa Elementary School. “It’s great for improving focus, hand-eye coordination and left brain/right brain work. It’s really activating the whole mind, the whole body. It’s an incredible sport. It’s a life sport and that’s what we appreciate about it.”
“I just really like competing,” said Carly, who is focusing on upcoming testing for her junior black belt. Her next competition, the eighth annual North Fork Championship, will be held in October at Two Rivers Event Center in Grand Junction. The tournament attracts competitors from throughout the U.S. and abroad, and Carly is hoping to do well there.
“The training, it’s really tough,” she said. “But in the end it’s all worth it.”