Flotrack's Best of 2012

Cam Levins - Breakthrough of the Year, Best of 2012

Cam Levins - Breakthrough of the Year, Best of 2012

Dec 26, 2012 by Mitch Kastoff
Cam Levins - Breakthrough of the Year, Best of 2012
“Last year showed me that as long as you don't set limits on how hard you can train, then the same can be said for races. I have continued to improve each year because there was never any doubt in my mind that I wouldn't as long as I put in the work to deserve it.”
He’s humble when he speaks, he’s all business on the track. The Mileage Machine, the CAMadian Wonder, Mr. Fantastic ‘Fro himself, Cameron Levins is our 2012 Breakthrough of the Year.
It’s pretty apt that when we talked to Levins before the Bowerman Awards, his interview was entitled “Cam Levins reflects on breakthrough season before 2012 Bowerman Awards.”

Did we already nominate Levins for the award beforehand? Perhaps

Did his Bowerman win make it any easier to justify the award? Again, perhaps.

If “hard work” means perseverance and showing up everyday, then 150 - 190 miles per week is something else. The past year, Levins just didn’t breakthrough, he defied all expectations and emerged as a world class distance runner.

“I think I just was consistently improving each year, and this last year the rate really didn't slow down,” Levins told Flotrack earlier this week. “I would say that I became just fast enough this year to start competing with the best in the NCAA, and I continued to get better as I faced such a higher level of competition.”

Before last fall kicked off, Levins was an rising collegiate elite. He had been to nationals, but was not yet a main contender.

The last time he competed in cross country, he finished 22nd at the 2009 NCAA Mountain Regional. Two seasons ago, he was 4th at nationals.

The same scenario happened on the track. When he toed the line at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championship, he was last (16th) in the preliminaries of the mile. The next year, he was 3rd in the 3000m and 4th in the 5000m.

“I would say that my biggest moment of doubt was right after the indoor season; I was training so much but still wasn't able to really mix it up with the top runners,” Levins said. “I felt that I couldn't do more (while balancing academics) than I was at that moment, and so it was a little demoralizing in my attempt to chase an NCAA title.”

That NCAA title would not elude him for much longer.

His coup de grâce was the outdoor season, where he delivered finishing blow after finishing blow in each race. His 13:18.47 winning time at the Mt. SAC Relays was fifth all-time collegiate and second fastest Canadian all-time in the 5k.

It is this race that defined Levins’ season. “The Mt. Sac 5000m [was important] because it was really the beginning of a streak of great races. I felt really good about how my 3000m went indoors, but I hadn't really come into my own in any other event until that race outdoors.”
His winning streak continued at the Payton Jordan 10k when his time of 27:27.96 ranked as the second fastest collegiate and Canadian all-time in the 10k.

Levins then showed that buried in his mountain of strength from all of that mileage was devastating speed. He kicked for home twice at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships to take both the 5k and 10k titles.
When he donned the Canadian national vest at the London Olympics, he continued to make history.
First, Levins would place 11th in the Olympic 10k where he hung with the leaders until the last lap.
Similar to his conference championships where Levins would double and quadruple in events, he competed in yet another Olympic final and took 14th in the 5000m
The last time a Canadian had made the 5000m Olympic final was in 1912.
“My dad has always told me 'If it were easy, everyone would do it.'" I believe that the best athletes in the world understand that, and realize that without both preparing and challenging yourself in practice and races you are not living up to your potential.”

Development in running, or development in anything for that matter, is like being a stonecutter. Jacob Riis once said, "When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

Riis had it right about stonecutting and Cam Levins has it right about running.