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Senior Salute: Dhamar Campos lives out Fort Vancouver’s mindset

High schools: Tim Martinez

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: May 18, 2020, 2:13pm

The Fort Vancouver cross country team has a mindset that’s been passed down in recent years.

“Just do your best, put in the effort and you’ll get there.”

Senior Dhamar Campos is a living example of that mindset.

In her first Westside Classic regional cross country meet as a freshman, Campos ran 25:09 and finished in 105th place.

“I was like third from last,” Campos said with an ever-present giggle.

As a sophomore, she improved by nearly two minutes, finishing in 23:10. As a junior, she got even faster, clocking in 21:42.

“It wasn’t until my junior year that I realized that I could actually be a competitive runner in college, if I really wanted to,” Campos said. “So the summer before my senior, I dedicated myself to being a better runner. Going out and running every day with the goal of making state on my own.”

Last fall, she achieved that goal, placing 33rd in the Westside Classic in 20:56.

“Down the last stretch of the race, my coaches were yelling ‘You need to pass five people! You got this! C’mon!” Campos recalled. “And I just pushed my hardest. When I crossed the line, I was like ‘please tell me I made it.’ I saw a video later on that one of my teammates made of the race, and I looked so tired. But I made it.”

Applying that same can-do attitude to her studies, Campos will graduate from Fort Vancouver next month and then become the first member of her family to attend college. She will also run cross country and track at Clark College.

“Everyone is a student first, then an athlete,” Campos said. “And as a runner, you learn that you have to give your best to get better. And that mindset works in the classroom, too.”

As she looks back on her time at Fort, Campos feels proud of how far she has come, both as a runner and a student.

Campos has enjoyed running for most of her life, starting out by joining her mom on morning runs when she was eight. But she never really saw herself as a competitive runner until receiving encouragement from future Fort teammate Anna Harrison while Campos was running track at McLoughlin Middle School.

“Anna went to Mac too, so she’d come to our meets to cheer us on,” Campos recalled. “She’d be like ‘hey don’t drop running when you get to high school’ because a lot of kids do.

“Once I got to Fort, she would make me run with her. And I’d be like ‘Anna, you’re too fast. I can’t run with you.’ But she kept pushing me to get better.”

Led by Harrison and Emily Phelps, the Fort Vancouver girls won their first league title in cross country during Campos’ junior year.

After Harrison and Phelps moved on to run for Division I college programs last fall, Campos took up the reins as a team leader for the Trappers.

“Anna and Emily were really good mentors,” Campos said. “They would always give me a ride home after practice, when I was a freshman or sophomore and I didn’t have my license. I appreciated that. And now I try to encourage and help the younger runners on our team.”

Running also gave Campos confidence in high school, which was an intimidating experience at first.

“When I first got to Fort, I was scared,” she said. “But as I went along, I got more involved in clubs, like chess, or volunteering to help plant trees. Later I joined ASB, which kept me involved in things that were going on at the school. … It helped me a lot. It made me feel part of a family at school.”

Even though she lost her senior track and field season, running continues to help Campos deal with the stress of the current health crisis.

“One of my cross country teammates lives like five minutes away, so we like to meet up and go on runs together,” Campos said. “Depending on my work schedule, we’ll meet up in the mornings or the afternoons. Sometimes it’s not until 7 p.m. because I have to work late. It just likes relieves my stress, because sometimes at work people aren’t very nice to me. And I just smile and so ‘OK. Thank you.’ But then afterwards, we can go on a run, and just breathe and space out. Let everything go. It feels good.”

Next fall, Campos will keep on running at Clark College and hopes to pave the way for her younger siblings.

Senior Salute

Each week through June, Tim Martinez will spotlight a different high school senior athlete.

If you know of a senior who deserves some attention, send it to tim.martinez@columbian.com or send a direct message on Twitter to @360TMart.

“I’m really excited about getting to run for Clark,” she said. “I will be the first generation in my family to go to college. And now I can show my little brother ‘hey you can also go to college and do a sport too, with some effort.’ ”

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, tim.martinez@columbian.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.