© Copyright – 2009 – Athletics Illustrated
On June 16, Black Creek’s Cameron Levins finished second in the British Columbia provincial 5k Road Race Championships on a challenging and hilly, double-looped course. He finished in the time of 14:53. Friday, August 14, he won a local 5000m event in the time of 14:09 — The Black Press 5000. Interestingly, he ran faster during his summer build-up than he did at the end of his NCAA Division 1 track season. Following that August 14th performance in Victoria, B.C. he flew to the other end of the country to Prince Edward Island where he took in the Canada Summer Games 5000m and won clocking a 14:23 performance.
Asked about his current training, he said, “honestly, I don’t know a lot about different training philosophies. I’ve just put my trust in Coach [Eric] Houle (Southern Utah University coach, SUU) and the program, and so far it has worked out pretty well. I do around 100 miles a week and I run every day.”
Bio of Coach Houle at SUU:
Thirty-three time conference and 1999 NCAA Mountain Regional Coach of the Year, Eric Houle is in his 18th season as head track and field and cross-country coach at Southern Utah University. Since his arrival at SUU in 1992, the Thunderbirds have won 36 conference championships, including four Summit League titles, 31 Mid-Con titles combined in track and cross-country, an American West title, and one NCAA Mountain Regional cross-country championship.
Christopher Kelsall: How easy of a decision was it for you to choose Southern Utah?
Cameron Levins: Choosing Southern Utah was actually a pretty easy decision. I had scholarship offers from a lot of Div 2 schools, and I had Div 1 universities interested in me, but I wasn’t being offered enough to go to them. Then one of the coaches at Southern Utah contacted me, and it just seemed to be exactly the kind of school I was looking for. Division 1, small school (I like small class sizes and being able to walk from one class to another easily), but still a very good track and cross-country program, and they were offering me a good enough scholarship for me to afford to go.
My planned major is Exercise Science. However, I’m not exactly sure what job I want to use it for post-college, but I like the subject.
CK: 2007/2008 was your first season in Division 1. How was your introduction to this new level of competition?
CL: Entering the NCAA was one of the best decisions of my running career. I saw pretty drastic personal bests with the new training regimen at Southern Utah and facing a greater level competition throughout the NCAA.
CK: Can you elaborate on the new training regime?
CL: My coach probably wouldn’t like me to give away too many of our program’s ‘secrets’ but I think the main changes from my high school to collegiate training have been an increase in both weekly mileage and pace I run my recovery days at and a larger variety of workouts.
CK: What are some examples of drastic personal bests?
CL: First, here are a couple of my best times from high school: 1:58.1 and 4:00.7 in the 800m and 1500m respectively. By the end of freshman year I had run a 1:53.8 and 3:50.01.
CK: You ran a 1-mile road race near your hometown of Black Creek in downtown Courtenay, you managed to nip under 4:00 minutes, but the course turned out to be short. Were you suspect with your sub 4 or did you have any idea about the length discrepancy?
CL: A mile under 4:00 minutes has been a dream for so many years that when I saw the finishing time of 3:59.86, I was ecstatic and extremely happy. It was a feeling of great satisfaction to accomplish a long-term goal like that. I actually didn’t find out until a couple of weeks later that the course was short. I was obviously disappointed when I did. It was hard to have what I thought was my first time running sub ’ taken away from me. However, I got over it and I’m confident it’s just a matter of time until I do it legitimately.
CK: Do you know how short the mile was? What is your current mile best?
CL: I’m not sure of the exact distance but I was told that, from the pace I was running, it would account for about an extra 2.5 seconds. But my mile personal best is 4:04.66 (indoor) on the track so I was still happy to have run faster than that.
CK: Growing up in Black Creek on Vancouver Island you certainly had your choice of a variety of sports. What other sports did you play? Were you always a runner?
CL: I actually did many different sports such as soccer, basketball, and volleyball, but was always a runner. I started racing cross-country in Grade 2 and the following year I joined track & field, but it wasn’t until Grade 7 that I started legitimately training for competition. I continued playing other sports along with running, but I started dropping other sports when I entered high school in Grade 9.
Even though I live near the ocean, I have never really taken advantage of it. I don’t really like swimming, fishing, or water-sports.
Probably the first sport I did was soccer. I also did some skiing and snowboarding.
CK: I recently asked you about running into bears while training at home. You replied that you haven’t actually ever seen a bear. This isn’t the answer I was looking for, at least Geoff Martinson during our recent interview admitted to running away, flailing his arms, when scared of some Black Bears (wrong thing to do). You know there are now Grizzlies on the island. So how about cougars or wolves, seen any of those?
CL: The only wildlife I ever run into seem to be deer and rabbits. I mostly stick to the road when running so I rarely come across much wildlife. I don’t think there are many wolves, cougars, or bears in the particular area I live.
CK: Maybe I should have asked Geoff: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” And he could answer, “because I saw a bear.”
Deer are highly dangerous, especially the big bucks in the spring, do you take any precautionary measures when running by them?
CL: I have never had problems with them being dangerous. However, they always scare the crap out of me whenever a big one jumps out of the woods right in front of me. I often wonder which one of us is more surprised though.
CK: Black Press 5000 – you ran 14:09 August 14th for a personal best. Your splits were as follows:
70.1 67.4 67.2 68.1 68.1 68.2 67.4 67.7 67.7 69.2 68.3 65.1 (14:09.)
This looks like a solid set of splits, slower start, steady and even in the middle and then laying the hammer down in the final 400m. Was this the plan from the start? It seemed to work as you created a nice gap between yourself and the second place finisher Richard Mosley.
CL: When I first arrived at the track I was actually looking to break 14:00 minutes, but as I warmed up for the race, the wind began picking up, so I talked to Richard and we decided to share laps going about 68 seconds per lap. However, about six laps in Richard couldn’t quite hold the pace so I ended up leading the rest of the way.
70.1 67.9 67.2 67.5 68.1 68.9 69.1 69.6 69.8 69.9 70.4 66.9 (14:19.)
CK: Was the matter of not breaking 14:00 due to the wind or lack of someone to push you?
CL: I don’t want to make any more excuses for my time. I ran as well as I could on the day and, as much as I would’ve liked to run under 14:00 minutes, I’m still very happy about my personal best.
CK: Have you had a chance to watch Dathan Ritzenhein’s 12:56 performance yet? He was dead last and appeared nearly out of reach at one point, mid-race, what are your thoughts on him running that time, finishing in third position when stepping down from the marathon?
CL: I have watched his race and it was very impressive. There was at least one moment I thought he may beat Kenenisa Bekele. I’m glad to see an excellent marathoner like Ritzenhein being able to step down to a lower distance and still see such success.
CK: During your spare time, are you a rabble-rouser?
CL: I haven’t had a lot of time to relax now that school has started back up. It sometimes feels like passing out on the couch is what I do during my spare time [laughing]. Seriously though, if I’m not running I’m usually enjoying myself playing some other sport recreationally.
CK: What goals have you set for the 2009 and 2010 seasons?
CL: During track season I would like to run under a few different minute barriers such as 4:00 minutes in the mile, 8:00 minutes in the 3000m, and 14:00 minutes in the 5000m.
I’m not overly concerned about my times in cross-country because each course can be so different, but I am certainly looking to qualify for NCAA nationals this year and compete for All-American status.