Thursday, July 7, 2016

Olympic Hopeful Heather Kampf

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Heather Kampf, of Team USA Minnesota, is ready. Kampf will be competing in  U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track and Field in Eugene, Oregon. This year, she’s feeling good about her chance at making the team in the 1500m run.

On a Saturday morning, I joined Heather and her husband Ben on a run around Minneapolis. Kampf gained online notoriety following her fall and recovery in the 600m run at the 2008 Big Ten Indoor Track Championships (this video gives me goosebumps every time).

“Do you get tired of talking about that race?” I asked.

“I’m OK with it,” she said. “If I’m going to be known as a gritty fighter who never gives up--that’s fine with me.”

“[That race] is something anyone can relate to,” said Ben. “A businessman, he could say, ‘She didn’t give up.’ They could be inspired by that.”

Kampf will bring her 600m speed to the US Olympic trials on July 7. “Runner’s World” lists Shannon Rowburry and Jenny Simpson as the two favorites, and gives a nod to Shelby Houlihan, Morgan Uceny, and Brenda Martinez fighting for the third spot on the team.

As we ran toward Lake Nokomis, Heather talked about her chances of making the Olympic team. “I think I’ve had season that’s been just enough under the radar,” she said, “that people aren’t thinking about me. It’s fun to go into this race without the pre-race publicity and pressure.”

Kampf is currently ranked twelfth among 1500m qualifiers, although she finished fourth at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships in March of this year. Kampf doesn’t focus too much on the competition. “You can only control yourself,” says Kampf. “You can choose how you affect the race, rather than letting the race happen to you.”

At the 2012 Olympic trials, Kampf finished 7th in the 800m run. “In the past,” said Kampf, “I’d tell people I had an outside chance of making the team. Now, just based on my workouts, fitness, where my head's at, and what I believe in my heart...I would be sincerely disappointed if I didn't make the team.”

Kampf is no stranger to winning. She has won high school state championships in both the 800m and 400m. In college, she was a finalist in the 800m in every NCAA indoor and outdoor championship, and finished first, second, or third six times. She is also a four time winner of the U.S. road mile title (read about it on Runner’s World).

Track wasn’t always Kampf’s favorite sport. “In a former life I was a gymnast. I loved watching gymnastics at the Olympics and I dreamed of what it would be like to compete there,” she said. “I started running track my freshman year of high school, and though I had the kind of initial success to expect a future in the sport… I don't think I really considered shooting for the Olympic level of running until I was in college.”

Kampf enjoys the camaraderie of Team USA Minnesota. “Our coach, Dennis Barker, takes the time to write a program that is tailor-made for each of us,” says Kampf, “but it's great to be able to show up to the track and have warm-up and cool-down buddies.”

Coach Barker has high expectations for Kampf:

Heather is unique in that she has the fastest 400m speed of any woman we have had on the team. So we have worked to keep that speed while improving her endurance to give her more tools to use in the 1500 meters. She took a big step this winter by running her first 3,000 meter race ever in 8:58. Early in the outdoor season she ran 4:04 for 1500 meters, then last week she ran one of her fastest 800 meter races 2:00.55. So we feel she is well-prepared for the Olympic Trials, where there will be a prelim, semi-final and final within a four day period.

When she’s not training with the team, Kampf keeps busy with her two dogs, speaking, and running with her husband, Ben. The first round of the women’s 1500m run takes place on July 7, and the finals take place on July 10.

You can see a full schedule on the USATF Website. For a TV and streaming schedule, go to the NBC Olympics Website.

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