Better and Better
Sept. 19, 2009
By Larry Watts
The distance from Batavia, Ill. to Iowa City is less than 170 miles. According to the log, Brendan Camplin has been keeping since his freshman year at the University of Iowa that would add up to over 30 round trips -- by foot.
"I've been keeping the log since my freshman year and it's kind of cool to look at it," says the fifth-year senior on the Hawkeyes' cross country team. "The summer before freshman year I was up to 55 miles a week, which was a bump up from the 50 I usually ran in high school. Since then I have been gradually building up and am now doing 95 per week. I run every day, sometimes twice in one day."
Camplin's dedication to his sport is even more inspiring considering he isn't even on scholarship. He and his parents are footing the entire out-of-state tuition to Iowa, which he estimates to be around $26,000.
Camplin would be the first one to admit he wasn't one of the elite runners in Illinois coming out of high school. He was the conference runner-up in cross country and also took second place at 800 meters in track.
"I was looking at a couple of other Division I schools and a couple of Division III programs," he says. "I just wanted a place that was a good fit academically and there would be a coach who could help me improve my running. I thought that best opportunity was at Iowa."
"Brendan chose Iowa No. 1 because of my charming personality and No. 2 because of our outstanding biomedical engineering school," veteran Hawkeyes coach Larry Wieczorek says. "He thought he could come here and run and combine that with a serious education, and he's doing that. It takes awhile at this level because the Big Ten is a pretty tough distance running conference in both cross country and track. He wasn't one of the best in Illinois, but his perseverance and talent are paying off."
"If coach Wiz wants to think his charming personality was tops on my list, I'm not about to hurt his ego," Camplin says with a laugh. "Looking at the credentials of the other guys on the team, I was a little worried coming in here.
"One of the big questions was if this was a place I could eventually contribute to the team. But talking to Wiz and a couple of the other guys really helped. When I got here I felt like I fit right in, especially with the other freshmen."
Preseason workouts during his freshman year yielded little indication Camplin would be a contributor. He admits he usually saw the backsides of the other 16 members of the team.
"But I guess I showed enough progress for Wiz to keep me around," he says. "I felt like I was doing some of the best runs of my life."
"What I saw was a young man with a hunger and passion for what he was doing," Wieczorek says. "It's been a gradual process and year by year he's kept getting better. It's like making an investment in a bank. It doesn't pay off right away, but if you stick with it, all of a sudden you have something."
Camplin's first season was over nearly as soon as it started. He was sidelined with IT (iliotibial) Band Syndrome in early October, the effect of the tendon from his hip bone continuously rubbing against his knee. He sat out the rest of the cross country season and all of the track campaign, creating a redshirt year.
"I tried to come back from the injury too fast and I paid for it the rest of the year," he says.
But that extra year might be just what the doctor ordered for Camplin even though it's still on his dime. He has gradually worked his way up in the Iowa pack and become one of the team's top five runners. Last fall, his time of 24:01 at 8,000 meters ranked eighth in school history and he placed 51st in the Midwest Regional. During last winter's Big Ten Indoor Championships, he shaved 17 seconds off his personal best in the 3,000 meters, taking 11th in 8:19.97, and he cut 24 seconds off his best in the 5,000 (14:37.87).
"It really started to show up last year that he believed in himself," Wieczorek says of the breakthrough. "He's made himself into a Big Ten athlete."
"Over time I kind of figured out consistency is a big deal in this sport and I tried to keep building up my mileage where each year I would add 10 miles to my weekly workouts," Camplin says. "I make sure I am running every day and staying consistent with that mileage. It's been a long grind over a long period of time, but it's finally starting to pay off now."
Although he hasn't been able to earn an athletic scholarship, Camplin is receiving one big reward from Wieczorek this year. He has been named one of the team captains for the coming year.
"That's a really big deal," Camplin says. "It's a sign of respect from both my coach and my teammates and it gives me such a good feeling. Wiz always looks to see how the team functions and who is doing what on the team, so this is quite an honor."
Camplin, an Academic All-Big Ten honoree, will receive his degree in biomedical engineering this December, but he plans to start working on his MBA so he can compete in his final season on the track.
"I was always into math and science in high school, so I thought engineering would be a good challenge," he says. "I have really gotten into the medical side of it and some of medical technology has been really cutting edge. I've also been taking some entrepreneurial classes in order to get a business background, so I think I may be leaning to going into the consulting field. Working for a biotech company would be ideal for me."
Whatever path Camplin chooses, he will probably hit the ground running.