“She is just amazing,” said Cumby head track Gary Parrish. “She’s gotten her times lower and lower. She shaved five seconds off in one week. Right now I am not going to tell her she can’t medal. I don’t want to put a cap on the things she can accomplish.”
At the age of 16, a sophomore at Cumby High School, Campbell has already earned a ticket to the biggest and most prestigious track meet in the state.
Campbell will be representing Cumby in the Class 1A 800-meter run at 12:20 p.m. Saturday at the UIL State Track Meet in Austin.
At this point heading into the big race Campbell’s time of 2:28.13 which was second at regional is the fifth best time in the state. She’s No. 5 among the top nine runners in the state. Top time coming by Hayley Wilson of Goldthwaite with a sizzling, 2:18.39.
Campbell is the new role model athlete already admired by younger students at Cumby, and here’s why. Not only is she a standout on the volleyball, basketball, cross country and track team, she’s an A plus student.
She is the second female track athlete in two years to earn a berth in Austin. Last year it was Laura Oviedo. Oviedo is now running track for McMurry University in Abilene.
Campbell said, “The 800-meter race is two laps. I start out sprinting until the cut in and then I try to stay with the pack, pretty close to the top. Then on the second lap I just run as fast as I can.”
Parrish said, “She has to run a smart race and she does. The cut in is about 85 meters. She doesn’t want to wait to late to start sprinting. She knows when to make her move. He uses her head as much as her feet.”
Campbell said she enjoys track because of the competition.
“I am competitive person, I have a younger brother and older sister, we are always competing in something,” Campbell said. “Track helps up build up a good work ethic. I really like to race and win.”
Campbell is fueled in track, by a short fall in cross country during the fall. She missed qualifying for state by one place. She got 11th, the Top 10 made state.
“I was so close, but I missed it. That taught me to go all out and give everything in the race,” Campbell said. “Running is mental, you have to push yourself. You never want to quit or slow down.”
She was coached in cross country by her dad, Lance Campbell, who is also the superintendent of Cumby ISD.
In track, Campbell has been a key member of the team which won the regional title. She ran the mile, 800 and was a member of the 4x400 relay team.
All this is even more amazing when you remember that Cumby doesn’t even have a track at the school to practice on. They go to Commerce High School once a week, but they usually train on the streets and roads near the school.
“We don’t let not having a track hold us back. We don’t make excuses,” Parrish said. “We just work hard and get ready the best we can. We measured off an 880 which Grace trains on. It has helped, it makes her tough to run here.”
Parrish continued, “Right now I know that Grace is one of the nine fastest girls in the state. I think she can medal or be in the top five. I really don’t know what she can accomplish in Austin because this is new to her. Some people run their best race ever once they get to Austin, others get nervous.”
Campbell is leaving for Austin on Friday morning. The whole school is having a send off for the speedy runner at 8 a.m. Friday. Many students have been making signs to show their support.
Parrish said that going to Austin on Friday and taking her to the track, will help her get over the awe of seeing such a large arena full of people. So Saturday she can just concentrate and race against the best Class 1A runners in her event.
Campbell has her eye on being a doctor one day and would like to ride her running skills into a scholarship. Some college coaches are already calling and following her times. The 800-meter race might be an event she concentrates on in college.
“I think she will do well in Austin, the 800 is a race made perfectly for her,” Parrish said. “She kind of tall about 5-6, a good stride for a middle distance runner. She’s mentally tough and that’s good, the 800 is grueling mentally. She has the ability and the drive to do very well.”
Campbell said, “I am excited for the chance to run at state. I want to be smart and run the best race I can. I don’t know what my time will have to be, but I do want to medal.”
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