Churchill runner breaks two SOSSA records
What started out as some mother and son bonding has turned into a running career brimming with potential.
“I started running with my mom (Rachel Hill) because it made her happy,” Eric Campbell said.
The Grade 9 student at Sir Winston Churchill made his first foray into competitive running when he was in Grade 6 and competing in a Mother’s Day five-kilometre race.
“I finished it in around 21 minutes and everyone was telling me I had talent,” he said. “Back then, I was wearing basketball shorts and everything.”
His initial success made him want to do more races and his mother suggested he sign up with the Niagara Olympic Club.
“At the start, I didn’t know what to wear or do before a race and I wasn’t very good,” Campbell said. “Once I started getting exposure, I was more prepared and I knew what to expect.
“Before I was pretty oblivious to the sport.”
Campbell has quickly gone from oblivious to victorious. At last week’s Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association championships at the Niagara Olympic Club, he set records in the midget boys 800 metres (2:02.40) and 1,500 metres (4:16:06).
In the 1,500-metre race, he wanted to finish first and see where that placed him.
“I knew the kid I was up against, Owen Lockyer, was very good and just as good as me,” Campbell said. “I thought to myself that I would stick with him and see what happened in the end.”
In the 800 metres, he was aiming for a personal best.
“My coaches told me that South Regionals are very tough and they wanted me to set a good time going into that. I tried my best to get a personal best.”
He didn’t find out until later that he had set SOSSA records.
“When I finally figured it out it was: ‘Oh wow, I didn’t even know.’ It was a great feeling to have.”
He has lofty goals for the rest of the high school season.
“Of course, making it to OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships) is the goal for anyone, but honestly my goals are to win and I want to break two flat (under two minutes in the 800 metres).”
He also has a challenge with Toronto runner Aidan Webster, whom he met him last summer at the provincial championships.
“He crushed me,” Campbell said. “He came third and I came fifth.”
The 15-year-old is looking forward to matching up with Webster in the 800 metres at OFSAA.
“I know I can beat him and it’s just a matter of how I do it.”
Running up an age group last fall, Campbell won the SOSSA junior boys cross country title and then placed a respectable 20th at OFSAA.
“At first when I finished, I felt really sad because I didn’t think I had done well enough and could have done better,” he said. “Now I am happy how it turned out considering I was racing against Grade 10s and they had more experience. In the end, it was really rewarding.”
Churchill track coach Benny Ralston describes Campbell as super talented.
“He hasn’t even tapped into his potential yet and what I like about Eric the most, is he’s naive and doesn’t know how good he is.”
That naivete makes Campbell a great leader.
“Even though he trains with another club, he is always here as a member of our team, he always does what I ask him to do and it’s fantastic to have a kid that talented saying yes and no, and thank you.”
Ralston sees a great future for the Niagara Olympic Club runner.
“He has some great coaches at the NOC so he’s set that way. I have a lot or running experience and Mr. (Brent) Mergl has a lot of running experience and he has to keep absorbing everything he can get.”
BPSN coverage of the spring track and field season is made possible with the support of the Niagara Olympic Club (https://nocrunners.com).