Lion Campbell runs away with schoolboy athlete-of-year honor
Swanville — Belfast Area High School's Jake Campbell has gotten quite a bit out of his legs and his speed the past four years, whether it be on the gridiron eluding tackles or motoring to impressive finishes on the track.
Now, Campbell has crossed the finish line ahead of nine other talented Midcoast student-athletes, as the Lion earns the distinction of Courier Publications' 2011-12 schoolboy athlete of the year.
Campbell, a 2012 graduate of BAHS, was selected over Camden Hills' Adam Carlsen, Max Mercier, Andrew Flanagan, Caleb Pease and Brandon Graffam; Medomak Valley's Alex Greenrose; Mount View's Jay Babin and Curtis Griffin; and Vinalhaven's Steven Osgood for the honor.
Campbell, who participated in football, indoor track and outdoor track and field during the recent school year, said "it definitely feels great" having won the award, especially knowing the level of competition many athletes throughout the area participate at.
"I know a lot of them helped me become a better athlete with competition in either football or track," he said. "So it was definitely an honor."
On the football field, Campbell rushed for more than 700 yards and scored "seven or eight" touchdowns in the fall, said coach Chris Bartlett. Campbell also played both defensive back and linebacker for the Lions, returning an interception for a touchdown in a game against Nokomis of Newport. He also nabbed first team all-conference honors for kick returning.
While Campbell's speed clearly was a positive for Belfast on the gridiron, it proved even more so during the indoor track season as the senior collected both Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and state Class B championships in the 200 meters, while also finishing third in the state at 55 meters.
In the spring, Campbell suffered a setback, when a hamstring injury prevented him from participating in the 200.
"It was like our first actual team practice and we were doing speed trials," he said. "I was going all out and I didn't even cross the finish line."
Campbell switched gears and began throwing the javelin and finished fourth in the KVAC championships, while also finishing second in the 100 meters.
His efforts earned him first-team all-conference honors in both indoor and outdoor track.
Campbell was born in Las Vegas, Nev. before he and his family made the move to Maine when he was five years old. He also credited his parents for getting him involved in sports at a young age.
"As soon as I could pick up a bat or I was capable of throwing a ball they were out playing with me hitting wiffleballs over the fence," he said. "And from there on out they supported me and encouraged me to try many different sports."
Campbell had tried many sports throughout his formative years, but settled into his own once he got to Troy Howard Middle School as he played football in the fall and track and field in the spring, though he did play baseball as a seventh grader.
"I went to track knowing that I had some speed and I did extremely well there," he said. "So I stuck with it after that."
Campbell wasted little time making an impact in the Busline League, winning the league championship in the 200 meters. He credits both his attitude toward sports changing as well as the level of play of his competitors as a significant factor in his development.
"Once I got into middle school I started to take it more seriously," he said. "I started to play with better players that wanted to play the sport, not just kids whose parents are just throwing them in the sport to get them out of their hair. At that point that's when I started to do a lot more work and actually train for what I was doing."
Campbell's work effort showed, as he earned first-team all-conference awards for outdoor track all four seasons and first-team all-conference during his junior and senior years of indoor track. Campbell played basketball in the winter for his freshman and sophomore years.
Campbell figured he would be in the running for the indoor track state title in the 200 meters, but had not realized how good his chances were until defeating Mount Ararat's McKenzie Gary, a Class A runner, during a regular-season meet.
"That's when I realized, 'Hey, maybe I've got a shot at this,' " Campbell said. "So I picked up my training another notch and I went for it."
His training, along with his longstanding rivalry with Mount View's Griffin, drove him to work harder. He said Griffin was his number one rival in sports as the two speedsters have vied for various conference, league and state crowns throughout both middle school and high school.
Campbell finished less than a second ahead of Griffin, who finished fourth, to win the state title in the 200 meters.
"I knew I'd won," he said. "At the end I was getting tired and I knew somebody was catching me, but I was able to hold off until the end. I was just amazed and extremely happy."
After his hamstring injury heading into the outdoor track season, Campbell showed his versatility by picking up the javelin for the first time at the high school level and thriving, qualifying for the state Class B championships in the process.
"I had nothing else to do and I needed something to do," he said. "Otherwise it would have been a very long season."
Campbell also had his share of success on the gridiron, recalling in particular the team's 40-24 win over Old Town Oct. 14. Not only did Campbell score two touchdowns in the win, but the Lions outscored the Coyotes 28-8 in the second half, thanks, largely, to three straight successful onside kicks, all of which were recovered by Campbell.
Campbell always has had a knack for football and had a passion for the game, though part of his enjoyment was simply "to be able to go out and just roughhouse with your friends," along with getting out into the open field.
"It wasn't just running," he said. "There was strength involved, there was speed involved, there was agility involved. It's just a good all-around sport to be in."
Campbell will attend Bentley University in Walham, Mass. in the fall, but hopes to come home and attend a few football games and track meets for his alma mater.
"I'm definitely going to miss all the friends I've made from sports from rivals from other schools to my teammates," he said. "It definitely made things fun and going to Bentley and not having any of those connections will be a little difficult, but I'll manage."
Campbell is an undeclared business major and plans to try to walk — make that run — on to the school's track team.
Name: Jake Campbell.
Grade: 2012 graduate of Belfast Area High School.
Parents: Zach and Tami Campbell of Swanville.
Favorite athlete: Curtis Griffin of Mount View.
Favorite personal moment in sports: Finishing second to Griffin in the 55 meters at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B indoor track championship and then defeating Griffin in the 200 meters for the KVAC Class B title.
Favorite course in school: AP physics.
TV show I never miss: NCIS.
Favorite phone/computer app: Flick Homerun.
What you listen to on your iPod before competing: Disturbed.
Favorite movie: Pirates of the Caribbean – At World's End.
Food you pig out on: Chicken.
Favorite book: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" by J.K. Rowling.
Hobbies: Walking the dog, hanging out with friends.
Vehicle you wish you were driving: Burnt orange Mustang.
Person you most want to meet (dead or alive): Usain Bolt.
Most influential people in your life: My grandparents, Butch and Iva Graves.
Future plans: To find a good career and move down south.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.