From the time Morgan Campbell was in the third grade, those who knew her felt she was destined to become an Olympian. She had been a gymnast from about the age of 5 doing vault, bar, floor and beam routines. And she was good.
But Campbell and those around her now know her destiny is as a track and field athlete. The recent Wellington High School graduate and Kennesaw State University (Ga.) commit shattered Wellington’s triple jump and long jump records.
While adapting to a new sport and new events, Campbell used her jubilant personality and fierce competitiveness to broaden a program known for distance and pole vaulting events.
“When I first started at Wellington, I had a few goals in mind,” WHS coach Oscar Robinson said. “I wanted to make it a more complete team, and in order to do that, you need to have great jumpers and sprinters. I was fortunate to get Morgan at that time.”
Before Campbell came to Wellington, the long-jump record was 16 feet, 5 inches, and the triple-jump record was 34 feet. At this year’s regional meet, Campbell had a long jump of 18 feet, 2 inches. At the district meet, she triple jumped 39 feet, 5.5 inches.
While talking to a reporter last Thursday, Campbell’s nails were painted red and blue, maybe a sign of her Olympic future. But it’ll be a long journey for her to get to that point, just as it’s been to get where she is now.
On Feb. 17, 2010, in Campbell’s first meet, she didn’t even jump. She competed in the shot-put and 100-meter.
“She threw the shot-put 21 feet, 1 inch, and she did the 100-meter in 14.41 seconds. That was her starting point,” Robinson said. “I could see a strong and powerful athlete, but definitely [someone who] needed a lot of work.”
But Robinson, a former Florida State University athlete, saw potential. “I knew to transform her it would take a while,” he said. “And of course, trying to get her to buy into the fact that one day she could be a great jumper.”
Robinson gave her bits and pieces of jumping techniques along the way, and she began jumping in her junior year. She made it all the way to regionals in the long jump. However, she jumped a disappointing 14 feet and finished in 12th place. It was that performance that fueled her for her senior season.
At regionals this year, her long jump improved to 18 feet, 2 inches — good enough for second place. She won the triple jump at the regional meet with a distance of 39 feet, 1 inch. In this year’s state meet, Campbell finished second in the triple jump with a distance of 11.66 meters. In the long jump, she finished sixth with a distance of 5.42 meters.
“I was proud that I actually got to that point, from last year finishing 12th to jump all the way to second in the triple jump,” Cambell said. “I was really proud of myself.”
And so were her coach and teammates.
In his years in the track and field community, Robinson has seen and competed with the best athletes in the world. He has seen leaders and been around good people. It’s Campbell’s personality that sets her apart, he said. Robinson likened Campbell to the quote, “Still waters run deep.”
“On the surface, she’s very reserved, mild-mannered,” Robinson said. “Inside she’s a very strong and competitive individual.”
This year, Campbell was co-captain with junior Elene Pohly. The two have been friends since they were in the same Spanish class together.
“She walked into that classroom, saw my table full of freshmen, sat down and began a conversation like we had known each other for years,” Pohly recalled. “From there, our friendship grew and became stronger as we worked together.”
Pohly added that Campbell is always there to offer support: “She pushed me to do my hardest in track. She helped me in my jumping and she cheered me on from the sidelines, whether I was competing or even if it was just in practice. She always has a smile on her face, and she was always around to make everyone laugh.”
Pohly was there to watch her friend compete in Jacksonville at this year’s state meet. It was a torrential downpour, but Pohly stood behind the spectator fence directly behind Robinson. Campbell had the lead in the triple jump at one point, but she eventually finished second. Pohly rode home with Campbell, and although Campbell was upset at first, she began to see the overall picture.
Campbell is extremely proud of her accomplishments at WHS, and with more hard work, hopes to hone her skills at Kennesaw. But beyond her own success, Campbell has laid a foundation for future Wellington jumpers.
“She’s opened the door for a lot of the younger athletes,” Robinson said. “Their opportunities are going to be much easier to reach because she has laid the path.”