Whoever said winning is only about the person in first place never met Ben Camp.
Camp is the epitome of a winner. No, he didn't win a state championship this season — though he did as a junior. But, with all due respect to those who made it to the top of the medal stand, what he did was so much more inspirational.
Camp suffered a double ACL tear during football season. The injury was so bad that most thought his competitive playing days in high school and college were over.
Most, that is, except Camp.
Though he missed the rest of football season and all of the swim season, he set his sights on competing again before leaving Trinity Christian Academy. That would be track season, and he was determined to try and defend his state championship in the discus.
While there would be no gold medal repeat, Camp did make it back to state and finished sixth. That prompted his coach, Cody McKenzie, to say of his comeback "It's an amazing story of determination to get back to competition."
Well said, coach.
Camp's career could have ended on that night in the debut of the Eagles' new stadium, and no one would have thought less of him had that been the case. But Camp believed he could fight back, that he had more.
"It was all due to hard work and the grace of God," Camp said humbly.
Funny how those two things so often work hand-in-hand. It also didn't hurt that Camp's mother is a doctor — and a mom who also had faith in the strength of both her son and the Lord.
"She pushed me. She wouldn't let up on me," Camp recalled.
When Camp did make his return, his first competition was in a junior varsity meet. However, he kept getting stronger and stronger.
"With every meet that passed I was able to do more with my throws," he said, adding with a smile, "I didn't finish in the top four until the right time."
The top four finishers in each event from district and regionals qualified for state, which Camp said brought the word "nostalgia" to mind.
"It was something I'd done before that I never thought would happen again," he said.
I think, though, in the back of his mind, he couldn't see his season ending any other way than competing in Waco one final time.
"This year means more to me because of my injury. Last year I was pretty sure I'd finish in the top three, but just getting back there this year made me so happy," he said.
Camp recalled the night of the injury. Though his season ended, he was happy it lasted as long as it did and that he played in the new stadium TCA players and fans had dreamed about for so long.
"I'd heard about it for many years. I'm so glad I got to play that one game in it," he said.
Camp admitted the next couple months following the injury were hard, both physically and emotionally. While his faith is strong, he was nonetheless told repeatedly his high school playing days were over.
"You always look forward to your last football game, but it was over so suddenly," he said. "It shifted my focus. How could I make others better?"
So, though he never played football again in the stadium, he was part of the team as a manager. He did the same for his swim team.
"I never really left sports, I just took on another role," Camp said.
When he graduated on May 19, Camp left a legacy of success at TCA both on the field and in the realm of integrity and class. If ever an athlete deserved to be looked up to by those coming through after him, it is Camp.
Camp said he believes the ordeal has made him a better person.
"I would always do the service ahead of me. This injury made me look at the bigger picture," he said. "God's plans aren't always the same as our plans. I believe this injury was God showing me how I can re-shift my focus."
Camp is now headed to Texas A&M University to study aerospace engineering. His brother, Jacob, is a junior there and is majoring in industrial distribution engineering.
Oh, Camp competed at state while still not 100% recovered — which he will be mid-June, he said. After that, he hasn't ruled out trying to compete in college.
"If anything else, if my body continues to recover, who knows? I might just decide to walk on," he said.
Whatever the future holds for Camp, it would be wise to at least give him a chance. The world could use a few more folks with his kind of positive willpower.
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