The place where Templeton High runner Savannah Camacho has honed her skills isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal of athletic facilities.
It looks like it could be someone’s backyard.
But it’s home for Camacho, who will look to finally overcome two runner-up finishes in the 800 meters in the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High in Clovis starting with today’s qualifying heats at 7:34 p.m.
The final is Saturday night.
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For the past four years, Camacho has used the Templeton track to build her endurance, speed and resilience despite the fact that she has to run on dirt while avoiding a pothole or two on one stretch. It’s not the prettiest place to practice, with weeds growing along the first lane next to the grass field, but this is where she has built her high school track career.
“I look at this track as one of my advantages,” she said earlier this week before a workout. “I train on this dirt track, then I go to the big meets with the nice tracks and I just feel so much faster just being on the track. I figured if I can train this hard and run this fast on a track like this, then I have just as much right to be there at state as anyone else does.”
That list includes Harvard-Westlake’s Amy Weissenbach, who once again beat Camacho at last year’s state meet by more than five seconds in the 800 to set the national record in 2 minutes, 2.04 seconds. Weissenbach enters today’s qualifying race with a time of 2:05.55, which she set last week to beat Camacho at the CIF-Southern Section Masters in Norwalk in a stiff headwind. Camacho finished in 2:10.26.
Judging by qualifying times and history, Weissenbach could repeat as state champion. The Stanford-bound runner trains on a synthetic track.
“They’re both excellent athletes, both excellent high school performers and they both, hopefully, will have tremendous college careers,” Harvard-Westlake track coach Jonas Koolsbergen said about Camacho and Weissenbach. “At this point, it’s a definite challenge that (Weissenbach) has to respect and be prepared for.”
But anything can happen.
“On any given day, some champions can be beaten. I wouldn’t count her out,” Templeton distance coach Jim Barodte said of Camacho. “Her determination and will is what got her to this point. When you have a runner and athlete who has that kind of will, that kind of determination, you can’t count them out to perform.”
Barodte knows what it takes to be a successful runner. He coached Jordan Hasay — the former Mission Prep standout who’s now chasing a national title at Oregon — when she was at the junior high level and broke records at the Junior Olympics.
Camacho is setting her own standards. She’s a two-time state runner-up, a four-time state competitor and a future Oklahoma State track and cross country runner. On March 31, she set the 800 mark of 2:14.97 at the 38th annual Elks San Luis Obispo County Meet at Cuesta College in nasty rainy and windy conditions that shut down the meet early.
Before that, she broke her own indoor state record at the Run for Dream Invitational in Fresno in 2:12.3.
It’s not enough. She wants more.
“I really want to finish high school off with a bang, so I’m hoping to win state,” she said. “That’s my goal the past two years now. I’m hoping I can pull through and do that. I know Amy Weissenbach will be running really fast. And so, I’m hoping to just stick with her and see what I can do.”
Camacho has shown she can succeed regardless of her surroundings.
SLO runner is hoping for personal best
San Luis Obispo senior Christine Hoffmann never expected to qualify for Saturday’s girls 3,200 state final race, but she’s happy that she has one more race before she continues running at UC Davis — where she landed an athletic scholarship.
Hoffmann qualified in 10:31.73 at last week’s Masters. Though she has the eighth-fastest seeded time, she doesn’t expect anything more from herself than a personal-best effort.
“I don’t have many expectations because I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Hoffmann said. “I’m excited to go to state and compete at that level. I’m hoping to have fun and place really high. I don’t care too much. I already accomplished a lot.”