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Spring Grove standout Laila Campbell holds her own vs. elite field at Outdoor Nationals

Spring Grove's Laila Campbell wins the girls' 200-meter dash event at 24.27 during PIAA Class 3-A Track and Field Championship action at Shippensburg University, Saturday, May 29, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Each time Laila Campbell stepped on a high school track this year, there was little question who would win the race.

The Spring Grove rising sophomore dominated the York-Adams League, District 3 and PIAA state title meets as a freshman, and collected a ton of medals along the way.

Last weekend, Campbell got her first taste this year competing against the top track talent in the United States at the Outdoor Nationals held on the University of Oregon’s campus.

“When I got to that line in the (100-meter dash), I was a little nervous because that was my first actual meet this year against the best of the best,” Campbell said. “So, it's a little nerve-racking.” 

Campbell shook off those nerves in her second race and reached the finals in the girls’ 200-meter dash. Campbell posted personal records in both events, with an 11.90-second time in the 100 and a 23.74-second effort in the 200.

She finished ninth in the 200 and No. 16 in the 100 out of 36 girls from all four high school classes.

Battling through challenges: Brian Campbell, father and coach to Laila, was impressed by her ability to battle some challenges ahead of the meet.

The pair had travel issues during their trip across the country and Laila fought through a cold ahead of the competition.

“I was super proud that she was able to really last,” Brian said. “I could tell she was nervous, but I could tell she realized like, ‘Hey, I belong. I am one of the fastest in the country.’ So, it was good to see her kind of independently take care of business and just see that she can get it done on the big stage, and she can maintain her composure at the highest levels of competition.”

Exposure to D-I coaches: In addition to testing her talents against the top sprinters in the country, Laila got some exposure to NCAA Division I coaches at the meet.

“It definitely was a chance to make an impression, just running my race out there, showing them as a freshman what I can do,” Laila Campbell said. “They were sitting right behind us. Even though I didn't win that meet, it shows them how I carry myself and I feel like that was a big part of coming to Oregon and having all those coaches there to get more looks.”

More elite competitions looming: The Outdoor National event isn’t the last elite competition Laila will take part in this summer.

Later this month, she will head to Jacksonville, Florida, for the U.S. Junior Olympics Track & Field Championships at the University of North Florida. Ahead of that event, she will participate in the Penn Relays Summer Series at the University of Pennsylvania, which will include college athletes.

Eye opener: Now that Laila has a top-10 time against the top talent in the country, the next time she steps on the track she will just be battling her opponents, and not nerves.

“It was just an eye opener, because in the 100 I wasn't really confident, but the 200 it was just like an eye opener showing that I can hang with these girls nationally, and it was a really great feeling to know that I got into the final,” Laila said.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.