Savannah Camacho has gotten used to receiving some attention from track and field enthusiasts over the past two-and-a-half years. Even more notoriety is likely to come her way in the near future.
Camacho, a Templeton High junior, won the girls 800-meter run at the Arcadia Invitational on April 9, finishing in 2 minutes, 8.3 seconds.
That time was the fastest in the nation during this spring outdoor season until freshman Mary Cain of Bronxville, N.Y., ran a 2:06.44 at the New York Relays a week later.
Camacho was unaware of her achievement until being informed by an interviewer after the race and was a bit shocked to be introduced as the fastest 800 runner in the nation, she said. The performance didn’t surprise many in attendance, though, including Arroyo Grande distance coach Sean Ricketts.
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“You could just see the confidence in her,” Ricketts said. “When she made her move, the race was all pretty much wrapped up.”
In the week afterward, DyeStat.com, a leading prep track and field website managed by ESPN, mentioned her in an article about candidates for this summer’s World Youth Championships, and MaxPreps.com featured a photo of her at Arcadia as the centerpiece of its national track and field page.
“Most of my friends that are close to me, I don’t think they see me as ‘the fastest 800 runner in the country’ — they just see me as Savannah,” Camacho said. “They announced it at school, and everyone in my class was like, ‘What?!’ ”
But to people-in-the-know, Camacho has established herself as a big-name draw. After running in relative anonymity early in her career, these days she finds herself congratulated at meets by people she doesn’t even know.
A rising star
Growing up as a soccer player, Camacho first began to run competitively in seventh grade, when she joined the San Luis Distance Club’s youth program — also known as ’Roo Rats — which is supervised by Jim Barodte.
Barodte is also well known in distance circles for coaching former Mission Prep standout Jordan Hasay, a current Oregon All-American sophomore, in her younger years.
Camacho’s first big move on the state scene came when she was one of only two freshmen to advance to the 1,600-meter finals at the 2009 CIF State Championships, where she finished ninth at 4:57.41.
It was a memorable arrival for someone who had started out “kind of just like any other lost freshman,” former Templeton teammate Kasey Urman recalled.
Even so, Camacho’s athleticism became evident early in that first cross country season.
“She was getting better and better,” said Urman, now a Cuesta College freshman and recently named the Cougars’ athlete of the month. “She was a natural. She’s got this really, really fluid stride, and it just looked so easy for her.”
As a sophomore, Camacho peaked at the right time, finishing second at the state meet in the 800 in a school-record time of 2:07.73 — just 0.21 seconds behind the state champion.
The season-ending stunner led to a certain amount of buzz about Camacho along the Central Coast coming into her junior year. This past October, for instance, at the San Luis Obispo County Cross Country Championships, spectators lining the Laguna Lake Park course in San Luis Obispo marveled aloud to one another about what she’d achieved and what could be ahead of her.
Already a three-time Los Padres League cross country champion, Camacho will be looking to win her third straight LPL titles in both the 800 and 1,600 in Santa Ynez on May 5.
With Barodte’s oversight and the encouragement of teammates, Camacho’s training regimen typically includes track workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with recovery runs throughout the North County in between.
“People always look at track as an individual sport, but running by yourself is 10 times harder than training with a team,” Camacho said.
Camacho said she first truly grasped how far she could go in the sport early in high school after she received her first piece of recruiting mail from UCLA.
“I realized I could use my running for something more than fun, and that it would definitely pay off in the end,” Camacho said.
For now, her ideal college destination is up in the air, she said, but it stands to reason that she’ll ultimately have her pick of Pac-12 powers.
“The future for Savannah just largely lies in her desire,” Barodte said. “She has the ability to go far in track and field and in general.”
Ricketts, who in 2003 was named the Big West Cross Country Runner of the Year while at Cal Poly, said he’s been impressed by Camacho’s range, as she’s able to run anything from the 400 meters to a 5K.
“It shows how talented a runner she is and what kind of capability she has,” Ricketts said.
Although Camacho also qualified for the state meet in the 1,600 as a sophomore (at 4:49.84), she elected to put her efforts solely into the 800, as she was ranked higher in the latter.
If she were to qualify in both again this season, she’d likely opt to focus on her “favorite race,” the 800, in which she’s shooting to run a 2:05. Barodte, while cautioning that he doesn’t believe in specialization at such a young age, is confident she can pull it off.
“She has that ability,” he said, “as long as she stays healthy and we keep control over what we can control.”
If one thing’s for certain, it’s that Camacho won’t be resting on her laurels to this point, Urman said.
“One thing I’ve always liked about her is that she never takes any race for granted,” Urman said. “She doesn’t go out there and just believe she’s going to win because of where she’s seeded. She gets nervous and shaky like everybody else and doesn’t just expect that she’s going to win by default.
“She tries so hard in every workout she does,” Urman said. “It’s what she loves.”
800 girls national rankings
As of Friday
1. 2:06.44, Mary Cain, Fr. (Bronxville, N.Y.)
2. 2:08.30, Savannah Camacho, Jr. (Templeton)
3. 2:08.72, Dynasty Gammage, Sr. (Long Beach)
4. 2:09.48, Samantha Levin, Sr. (St. Louis)
5. 2:10.20, Shea Martinez, So. (Davis, Utah)
Camacho at CIF state track finals
2009: Ninth in 1,600 (4:57.41)
2010: Second in 800 (2:07.73)
Camacho’s career best times
800: 2:07.73, June 5, 2010
1,600: 4:49.84, May 28, 2010