This week in Eugene, Ore., the country’s top track and field talent will compete for the right to represent the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London -- an opportunity that in itself would be the career pinnacle for many athletes.
But former Coastal Carolina standout Amber Campbell has bigger goals this time around.
Campbell, who competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing during what has been a decorated post-collegiate athletic career, is among the favorites to claim one of the three qualifying spots in the hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Trials and is hoping the competition Thursday is merely a warmup for what she aims to do in London.
“It’s always an honor to be able to have a chance to represent my country,” Campbell said over the phone Wednesday from Oregon. “Any time I get to do that, it’s amazing. But at this point in my career, I feel more confident and prepared to take it to the next level, so we’ll see what happens.”
The next level would be reaching the Olympic finals. She finished 21st in the prelims four years ago in Beijing.
“First things first, I need to make the team,” she said. “But my goal is looking toward that next level.”
Campbell’s flight of 12 competitors (one of two women’s hammer throw flights at the Olympic Trials) begins competition at 12:15 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday with the finals in the event set for 1:15 p.m. The top three finishers who also have a qualifying A standard -- which Campbell does -- earn their place in London.
A 16-time Big South Conference champion and five-time NCAA All-American in the hammer and weight throw with the Chanticleers, she’s continued her ascent in the years since. She hasn’t strayed far from her athletic roots, though, and still remains close to the Coastal program while working as a volunteer assistant coach.
“She’s been a great ambassador for Coastal Carolina University,” CCU women’s track and field coach Alan Connie said. “So even though she’s sponsored and throws for Nike ... she’s continued to be a great representative.”
Campbell has the third-best qualifying mark (71.57 meters) entering the Trials and is positioned well to advance to London. But nothing is guaranteed.
“I definitely still get nervous,” she said. “But I’m able to use the nervous energy better. I’m able to channel it into excited energy. It’s a good thing when I still get those nerves because it lets me know my body’s prepared and ready for battle.”
She said she hasn’t made any decisions as to whether this will be her final Olympics pursuit, and that’s not really in her thoughts. The goal is a high finish in London, and the first step is making it through the Trials on Thursday. So right now, the focus is simply on her routine -- the one that’s taken her this far.
“Getting ready to throw, I’ll say a quick prayer, make sure my body and spirit are in alignment,” she said. “Then I’ll go through my cues for that day and ... then I let it fly.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.