Midland's Campbell signs to run with Xavier
ONA -- Avery Campbell repeatedly summed up Friday afternoon with one word: "Surreal."
The Cabell Midland High School senior was surrounded by family and coaches at a table on a stage with his friends and teammates filling out the seats in the high school auditorium as he signed a National Letter of Intent to run cross country and track for Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Campbell finished third in the state cross country meet in the fall, helping Cabell Midland land yet another state title. He was also named to the all-state cross country team.
"The whole situation, the whole experience is just like 'Wow, this is really happening,'" Campbell said after the signing. "I feel really fortunate, and, I don't want to say 'lucky,' because I put a lot of hard work in and the coaches put a lot of work in, but I just feel very fortunate to have this opportunity."
The "hard work" portion is what has made Campbell the runner that he is, said coach Chris Parsons, who has built a cross country and track dynasty at Cabell Midland.
"This is what happens when you combine a little bit of talent and a lot of hard work," Parsons said. "He's talented, but because he works and sacrifices all year, that's the difference."
Parsons watched Campbell run since middle school, and said he couldn't believe how quickly seven years passed.
He also said that when Campbell came into the fold, he always had a goal to strive toward.
"He came in as a freshman, and wanted to make the top seven (runners) at a program where we're battling for a state title every year," Parsons said. "By his sophomore year, he was in the top seven."
Parsons said Campbell was very ill at the time of the state cross country meet in 2011, his junior year. He finished 13th overall, when he should have been a top 10 runner. Some athletes might let something like that hold them back, but Parsons said it only motivated Campbell.
"He said he would make it up to me in track season," Parsons said. "He came into track season and just blew everybody away."
Campbell thanked his parents and grandparents, as well as his coaches, teammates and friends, saying none of what he accomplished would be possible without them.
After the ceremony, he said he can't wait to pound the trail in the fall for Xavier.
"I'm ready, I really am," Campbell said. "Ever since I committed, it seems like everything has become sluggish getting toward graduation. I'm really looking forward to it."