NORWICH – Karen Snyder was such a dynamic track and field athlete; it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t her first love. From the time she was about 5 years old, she was putting in many hours practicing and playing soccer.
“I started [playing sports] pretty young , and I was fortunate my parents threw me into everything,” Snyder said, 33, who now lives and works in New Hampshire. “Some of those sports stuck and others did not.”
Long before she graced the Norwich High School varsity track and well before she joined the NHS varsity soccer team, she competed at the club level as a standout defender for the Chenango Chargers. Usually, Snyder was the last line of defense to protect her goalie. She would carry those many years of training into a standout four-year varsity soccer career for the Norwich Purple Tornado.
Snyder came up the soccer ranks with the same core of young ladies, and that group would ultimately jell into the program’s defining team.
Snyder’s senior season, the fall of 2001, stands alone as the Purple Tornado’s best team performance in school history, and no team has come close to matching that 11-5 overall record.
Snyder played with some outstanding athletes, and again, she was the anchor of the defense at fullback, earning Southern Tier Athletic Conference all-star accolades following her junior and senior seasons, as well as her Norwich team’s Most Valuable Player.
“We had a good contingent that all started playing together around the same age,” Snyder said. “Our senior year, we had an excellent team. We had played so long together and had a lot of good talent.”
During that season of distinction, the Purple ladies pulled off perhaps the greatest win in school history. Hosting perennial state championship contender Seton Catholic Central at Perry Browne Elementary School’s Alumni Field, Norwich gained the program’s signature win edging the Saints, 2-1 in a thriller.
Seton was virtually unbeatable that season, and went on to win a Class C state championship. But it was Snyder and the rest of the Tornado that earned eternal bragging rights as the team that beat the eventual state champion.
Snyder could have pursued a collegiate soccer career. Aside from her prodigious soccer skills, she was blessed with tremendous speed and strength.
That speed and strength served her well in the spring, and she proved a natural in just about every track and field event she entered.
Snyder said she discovered an aptitude for track and field during her elementary school days.
Toward the end of the school year, Norwich’s elementary schools have traditionally held a track and field day where kids participated in a variety of running, jumping, and throwing events led by retired NHS physical education teacher Gloria “Scottie” Decker.