For the past seven summers, since before she was a freshman at Glenelg High, Sylke Knuppel has worked as a carpenter, swinging a hammer with her strong right arm while framing houses.
"I like building things," said Knuppel, a civil engineering major at Johns Hopkins.
She also likes throwing things, which has helped her build a remarkable collegiate athletic career. A two-time All-American in track and field, she was the 1992 NCAA Division III champion in the javelin last spring.
This past fall, she started in goal for the Blue Jays' first-year soccer team after four years away from the sport.
And last week, after scoring 18 points in a 75-55 basketball win at Lebanon Valley, the 5-foot-10 senior became the school's all-time leading women's scorer with 1,216 points, breaking former teammate Juliane Rolapp's mark of 1,211 set in 1987-91. "I really looked up to her when I was younger," Knuppel said. "To surpass her record means a lot to me."
But Knuppel, a four-year starter who has 1,240 points, can do more than score. In addition to averaging 18.4 points for the 9-10 Blue Jays, she also is averaging 8.6 rebounds a game. Barring injury she should become the school's second all-time leading rebounder.
"She has played every position but point guard," said Blue Jays coach Nancy Blank. "She now plays the post, but she has three-point range which makes her unusual for Division III. She also can handle the ball like a point guard. She breaks the press for us."
A Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection as a senior at Glenelg, the Woodbine resident had full-scholarship offers from Delaware and UMBC. "I came here for academics," she said. "I liked the coach and the program, which looked like it was on the way up."
When she went out for track her sophomore year, she told coac Gary Green, "I can throw things." He handed her a discus, shot and javelin. In her first season of competition Knuppel placed seventh in the NCAA championships in the javelin.
In her second season she won the national championship with a toss of 49.66 meters (approximately 164 feet), exceeding the qualifying standard for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
dTC There were only 24 slots, however, for the trials and Knuppel was ranked 27th. That doesn't mean the Olympics are out of her future.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised if we saw her qualify for the Olympics," Green said. "She's got four or five more years of improvement and advancement before she reaches her peak."