Brunswick High School track athlete Luke Campbell is a stat guy.
He knew he should have won the 110-meter hurdles at last year’s state track championships, just like he knew he shouldn’t have clipped the final hurdle at this year’s county meet in the same event. He also knew he shouldn’t have cleared 6 feet, 4 inches in the high jump.
That string of events shouldn’t have happened because of the simple, mathematical and statistical reasoning that they weren’t supposed to.
At last year’s state meet he finished third in the 110 hurdles despite being seeded first. At this year’s county championship he took second despite being slotted well faster than any other runner. Coming into this year’s state meet, he hadn’t cleared anything higher than 5-11 in the high jump, but somehow he won by 4 inches. And he finished the season jumping 8 inches higher than he was at the start of it.
Campbell is the male athlete of the year on the 2012 All-Gazette Boys Track and Field Team.
“There was a lot of disappointment, working for the whole year and I knew I should have won,” he said of his state meet in his junior season. “I went back and kind of changed my perspective on track and field and to not take anything for granted. It was a bitter taste in my mouth and I knew I had to work harder.”
Campbell’s mindset changed — toward the numbers, toward practice, even toward his diet. He started eating more carbohydrates for added energy and drinking more water to keep hydrated. The new, rejuvenated Brunswick star earned his first state title in the 110 hurdles and then collected two more in the 300 hurdles and the high jump, towing the entire Brunswick team on his back to a second-place finish in the 1A standings.
In his 10 years as Brunswick’s coach, Tony Lawson said he’s never seen anything like the show Campbell put on Memorial Day weekend at Morgan State University.
“What he did at the state meet in the high jump was — he missed a school record by 1 inch. He did that with no steps,” Lawson said. “A lot of kids used seven or eight steps and jump and start from the same spot. But [Luke] felt it out as far as his approach.”
Campbell’s track career didn’t even begin until he was a sophomore. Just two meets into the season he took his first of many victories in the 300 hurdles.
“He is just pure athletics,” Lawson said.
He’s the product of a German track runner — his mother — and a Brunswick star basketball player — his father — and he was raised as such. Sports were a way of life for the Campbell family as Luke grew up, playing soccer and basketball which he says added to his versatility on the track. Throughout his three-season career — Luke never ran indoor track — he competed in nine different events and earned as high as second in all but one of them.
The only events he couldn’t do are “maybe the pole vault or shot put,” he admitted with a laugh. “Some of those guys are going up 18 feet. I couldn’t do that.”
So he concentrated on the 110 hurdles, the 300 hurdles, the high jump, the 1,600 relay, the sprint medley and the shuttle hurdles. That was just his senior year.
“He was really determined when he went to the state meet last year and he didn’t get the result he wanted,” Lawson said. “He wanted more, he came back more determined. In practice, things come up throughout the day and some kids are sometimes late or won’t come. [Luke] was going to do the workout we designed for him no matter what came up and that was really impressive.”
His knack for the hurdles was well-known. He swept the 1A West Region and Antietam Conference in both hurdling events his junior year.
His talent in the high jump was not so public. He never had competed in the event before, and his performances early this season made that clear. He jumped 5-8, 5-4, 5-9 and 5-10. For a rookie in the event, it was pretty good. For a senior with the state championships looming, it was pretty average.
“We had a huge need for him to do more events,” Lawson said.
More events? This was the kid who tried six other events aside from the high jump in his senior year alone. And now Lawson wanted more?
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” said Campbell of his success in virtually every event that included less than 400 meters. “To be honest, I don’t really know.”
So Campbell, one of the “most coachable” kids Lawson says he ever has had, tirelessly went to work, honing his hurdle technique, getting a feel for the high jump, and improving his speed somewhere in between.
When he arrived at Morgan State for the state meet, he had “no idea” he could produce such a height as 6-4 in the high jump. Yet he didn’t clip the bar a single time until he had cleared 6-2, 3 inches higher than his personal best.
His third state title of the meet came 1 inch later at 6-4, 4 inches higher than any other competitor.
“It’s amazing to say the least,” he said.
Campbell, a stat guy, had done something that he shouldn’t have. He proved the numbers wrong.