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WHS’s karate kids go for the gold


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Sean Canavan (Junior)

Photo by Sean Canavan
Canavan pictured left with his competitors.

Two golds, three silvers, and one bronze. These are the medals that WHS junior Sean Canavan recently won at the World Karate Commission (WKC) World Championship competition in Dublin, Ireland, making him a world karate champion at just 16 years old.

Canavan got his start in karate at a young age, after his kindergarten teacher recommended that he participate in it due to his rambunctious behavior. He began training at Karate in Motion, a studio formerly in Westfield, and has kept up with it ever since. “I love the creativity of [karate],” he said. “Also, the fighting is fun.”

Now, he trains with various coaches from that studio, and competes for the American Karate Association (Team AKA), a professional team based in Illinois that travels to fight. He participates in the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) circuit and has competed in many tournaments over the years. “I’ve been competing for 10 years, which is a pretty long time,” he said.

Competing in the WKC World Championship was a big deal for Canavan, and it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. “There was a qualifier for Team USA in Detroit, and I had to train really hard for it,” he said. “Everything I could have done to train for this, I did.” Clearly, it all paid off.

So what’s next for this karate superstar? He’s not exactly sure, but for now, he’s just going to continue his training and see where this all takes him. “I can only get better from here,” he said.


Julia Plawker (Senior)

Photo by Julia Plawker
Plawker pictured right at 2017 World
Championship in Orlando.

In 2009, WHS senior Julia Plawker competed in her first karate competition. In 2015, Plawker was scouted by Team Next Level. Today, she practices seven days a week in the Bronx, NY and competes around the world.

Plawker participates in seven different events and has been a stand-out competitor in her division from a young age. Her proudest accomplishment, she explained, was winning six gold medals at the World Championships in Orlando, FL in 2017. Representing Team USA, she described it as a “one of a kind experience.”

Karate has led Plawker to numerous places as she travels every few weeks for competitions. “It has been an amazing experience to travel both across and out of the country for karate. I have gotten the chance to see many different cool cities and meet many different people,” she said.

As a highly competitive student athlete, she finds balancing schoolwork with her intense karate schedule to be difficult at times. “With training seven days a week and traveling every few weeks, it definitely can be difficult to fit everything into my schedule,” she said.

Although the additional stress put on Plawker has been challenging at times, karate has ultimately led her to many opportunities that the average high schooler may not experience. “My favorite part about karate is the people I meet through it,” said Plawker. “Karate is different from other sports because some of my closest friends are the people I compete against, and while competing, we always cheer on and support each other.”

Karate has offered Plawker invaluable experiences and she will always be grateful for beginning this journey.

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