Laila Campbell's 'tough' decision to skip prep hoops, focus on indoor track, pays off

DANTE GREEN
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  • Spring Grove's Laila Campbell is coming off a strong indoor track season.
  • Campbell made the decision to skip the prep basketball season to focus on indoor running.
  • She was a two-time All-American in indoor track this past winter.
Spring Grove's Laila Campbell

It’s hard enough to excel at one sport, but some athletes have the talent to shine in more than one.

Spring Grove High School sophomore Laila Campbell is one of those rare talents. She’s flourished in both basketball and track in her short high school career. 

The 6-foot sophomore won the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes last year as a freshman at the PIAA Class 3-A State Track and Field Championships – a remarkable achievement for a first-year performer.

She also had a standout freshman basketball season at Spring Grove last winter, helping the team to the District 3 Class 5-A title. She finished her freshman season averaging 16 points per game and scored a career-high 33 points in a district semifinal.

The stellar season earned her NCAA Division I scholarship offer to Manhattan.

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This past winter, however, she elected not to compete in high school basketball to concentrate on indoor track and field. It’s a decision she does not regret. It paid off with some standout performances.

She won the 55-meter event (7.05 seconds) and the 200-meter event (25.12 seconds) at the February Flash Invitational at Mercersburg Academy in Franklin County. The weekend before that, at the Millrose Games in New York, she finished fourth in the 60-meter dash in 7.45 seconds. That elite event featured top high school female athletes from across the country.

More:Spring Grove standout Laila Campbell to skip Rockets' basketball season for indoor track

She also finished third in the 60 dash at nationals and finished fifth in the 200. Those efforts qualified her for All-America status.

“I wanted to focus on track because I was behind more than I wanted to be,” she said. “I thought I could shorten my track season and then play AAU (basketball) in the summer. It was tough but I did what was best for me. I wanted to do indoor track.”

Brian Campbell

The future: The decision not to play ball was one Campbell made with her family. She says she plans on continuing with the same plan — focusing on track and may not return to play for Spring Grove High in basketball. However, her father and track coach, Brian Campbell, says everything is on the table right now.

“Once she’s in, she’s locked in, so you never know what happens. Once she gets on the basketball court, who knows, things might change. I want her to leave her options open,” Brian Campbell said. 

High goals: Laila Campbell has high goals set for her outdoor season, which started Tuesday with first-place finishes for the Rockets’ high school team against Red Lion in the 100 and 200 dashes. She times of 11.73 and 24.30 seconds, respectively, on a cold and windy day.

Last year, she was a part of the national relay team where she took second in the country.

“I want to run 11.3, 11.4 (seconds) in the 100 meters and then 22.9 or low 23 in the 200 meters,” she said. 

Proper preparation: Preparation is the key to Laila Campbell’s performances. She listens well to her coaches and focuses on the task at hand.

She’s not worried about who she is going up against, but rather getting better at what she loves. She also says she has had plenty of motivation to be successful. 

“It’s doing what I love and that next step in my life, which is college, and to run at the next level. Plus, I have my teammates and coaches on days I don’t feel like it. They push me every day,” she said.

Self-motivated: Her father says she’s an athlete who motivates herself.

“She’s always motivated and locked in,” he said. “We focus on trusting the process. Even if it’s one meeting, then there is always another meeting. So, I want her to be relaxed and not stress herself out too much about one event. I tell her just execute the game plan.”

More:Susquehannock track-and-field teams sweep to wins; other Tuesday York-Adams prep results

When it comes to handling pressure, Laila Campbell just made sure she sticks to her schedule.

“Last year it was different having to shift from two different sports but focusing on just one at a time has made it a lot easier,” she said. “Sticking to my schedule of when to eat, what to eat and training has been important.”

AAU basketball: Even though basketball may not be her main focus at the moment, the Campbells still have high goals for her summer in AAU.

“Excel at my game and show my range. Show I’m not just a thrasher but I can shoot as well,” Laila Campbell said.

“I want her to work on her guard skills,” Brian Campbell said. “I want her to develop her ability on the wing, her three, ball handling and pull-up jumpers and playing well with very talented players.”

A funny side: Laila Campbell wants people to know she isn’t just an athlete though. 

“I am a very comedic person and am always upfront,” she said. “I work hard in everything that I do. I’m locked in whatever I’m aiming to do.”

Her father wants people to know she is more than just a competitor.

More:York countians overcome pandemic hurdles to enjoy triumphant sports year in 2021

“It’s the funny side that people don’t get to see because of the serious demeanor, but she’s the silliest in the family. She has that switch when’s she’s not competing,” Brian Campbell said.

Spring Grove support: Laila Campbell will have plenty of chances to show how good she is at both sports and has time to reach her goals. Spring Grove's support has played an integral role in the family's success. 

“The Spring Grove community has made so many resources available to us,” Brian Campbell said. “The track time, the gym time and the coaching support. They’ve played a pivotal role in our success. We have some of the best facilities in York County and they have been very supportive.”

Laila Campbell agreed with her father’s assessment.

“I feel like this community has my back anytime I need it. All of the trainers and coaches have been incredible,” she said.

“They always have my back.”

Reach Dante Green at dgreen@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports.