Power of Belief: Camille Campos and Hawai'i Rise Together
by Chris Hargraves, Assistant Director of Championships and Communications
Faith and belief are driving forces in athletics. Sometimes all an athlete or a program has is faith in itself…a belief that with hard work and determination fortunes can change.
For Hawai’i sophomore runner Camille Campos and the rest of the Rainbow Wahine, faith is something that comes easy these days as the program is enjoying what could be its best season. Led by Campos, the ‘Bows have opened eyes on the islands and mainland, a program rising seemingly out of nowhere.
The story of how Campos and UH came together is one of faith and belief. A native of Bakersfield, Calif., Campos was not a heavily recruited athlete. Instead she actually recruited herself to several schools before eventually coming to the attention of Tim Boyce, the new cross country coach at Hawai’i.
A recruiting questionnaire turned to emails to phone calls to an official visit. Boyce sold Campos on his vision and belief that UH could field a highly competitive cross country program. It meshed perfectly with the faith Campos had that not only could she run at the Division I level, but become a top-flight runner at the helm of a program.
It wasn’t going to be easy for either of them. Boyce was taking over a program that needed a little bit more than belief. Campos was an 18-year old a long way from home that had to adjust to life as a Division I student-athlete.
“Freshman year was kind of a trial run and I was just trying to adjust to everything,” said Campos. This year I got into a groove and trusted in God that through my training I was able to improve.”
That 2015 season was a lesson in patience for Boyce and Campos. Incremental success was key and Campos was at the forefront of that effort. In her freshman season, Campos competed in seven meets, ranking in the top five of Hawai’i’s finishers in six of those races and leading all UH performers twice. She picked up solid personal bests of 18:04.1 in the 5K and 22:00.6 in the 6K while also putting up a time of 22:38.20 at the Big West Championships. The effort at the league meet was particularly encouraging to Boyce as the club finished in seventh with a 72-point improvement from the previous year.
“To me the big jump was last year after adding all the freshmen,” says Boyce. I think the most surprising thing was the degree that Camille and everyone has improved. I don’t think any of us are satisfied that we have reached our potential and now we can set our sights on getting better and being a quality Big West team year in and year out.”
Campos felt she could improve even more. A deeply religious person, Campos felt the faith she has in herself comes from above. It would be a motivating factor as she trained hard for a sophomore season that would include the Conference Championships on her home course.
To say Campos came out running may seem like a cliché, but it’s exactly what happened. The season-opening 5K at the BYU-Hawai'i Invitational brought about a PR in 18:00 and a team title. The Big Wave Invitational one week later brought about an individual title for Campos, a PR in the 5K at 17:48.90 and a second-place team finish.
Competing on the mainland for the first time in 2016 two weeks later, Campos delivered another eye-popping performance. She set a PR in the 6K at 21:08.80, a time that was nearly 67 seconds faster than her performance at the same race a year ago. That led the squad to a third place showing. Two weeks later at the Sacramento Capital Cross Challenge, Campos recorded her fourth-straight personal best. This time is was a 6K showing in 20:44.4. Fast forward two weeks and Campos set her 6K best yet again. This time the Bronco Invitational was the setting for a blazing time of 20:03.4, the best time in the Big West this season and a program record.
“From day 1 she’s been a different athlete in terms of what she has been able to do,” Boyce says of Campos, “I’ve had very few athletes make this degree of improvement in such a short period of time. I’m learning quickly not to set any limits on what her long term times or accomplishments may be.”
Through it all, Campos hasn’t let success change who she is. She is a leader of the Christian Fellowship of Athletes on campus, has a Bible study group every Thursday that includes athletes from various sports and goes to a shelter on Mondays just to be with children that just may need a little faith and belief. She also finds time to also speak with her parents almost every night for encouragement and love even on those rare days when she isn’t feeling her best.
Boyce has also noticed the leadership that Campos has provided in her short time on campus. Within the club, she has provided an example for others to follow through her enthusiasm, positivity and relentless work ethic.
“She’s a super positive person of great faith that inspires her teammates. The difference this year is that in every workout she goes out there to do her best. She pushes the pace in the workouts we do and inspires her teammates that if you do the little things and push yourself anything is possible.”
Mature beyond her years, Campos displays a humility that is rare for an athlete at her stage. She had a slight case of disbelief after being named Big West Athlete of the Week on October 4 and has taken the time to enjoy the journey that running has led her on.
“I’m definitely very humbled that God has given me the opportunity to come here and run and use my talents to glorify His name. I’m so thankful to be at this level now and I just hope to keep building on it.”
Legacies aren’t usually a topic for college sophomores. Some don’t even know what their major will be let alone how they want to be remembered. Campos is different in that regard…she is keenly aware of the platform she possesses and the responsibility that comes along with it.
“I want to leave a legacy that with hard work and faith anything is possible. I truly believe that. I hope other people can see that and that it can encourage them.”
With the league meet on the horizon, the UH program gets an opportunity to show their improvement to the masses. For Boyce it’s a chance to show that the belief within the program has them on an upward trajectory. A belief that isn’t lost on Hawai’i head coach Carmyn James.
“Coach Tim has done an outstanding job being her mentor and planning her workouts. His expertise and leadership have really turned our distance program around.”
Meanwhile, Campos doesn’t hide her feelings on the Conference Championship meet.
“I’m so excited…every day I wake up and look at the calendar and say we have this many days until Conference! Its really cool that we’re hosting this year…so many talented runners are coming and it’ll be cool for everyone to see where we train and compete.”