“If at first you don’t succeed, try again” isn’t always the best advice.
Nicole Camp is proof that sometimes it’s better to just try something else.
“My sophomore year at Norwayne, Mr. (Terry) O’Hare talked me into running cross country instead of being a really bad volleyball player, which I was,” Camp recalled with a laugh.
It might have been the best advice Camp’s ever received.
The volleyball benchwarmer started running and never looked back. Simply put, Nicole Camp is probably the greatest female distance runner in area history.
The longer the race, the better Camp was.
Camp was one of the best marathon runners in the U.S. for about a decade.
An extraordinary career as a cross country and track distance runner at Norwayne and then the University Toledo prepared Camp to win several marathons and compete in three U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon races.
The 2004 Norwayne graduate’s best Olympic Trials finish came in 2012 in Houston, when she placed 37th in 2 hours, 39 minutes. She had an average pace of 6:04 per mile over the 26.2-mile course and was just 13:32 behind the winner.
In 2016, Camp went to the Los Angeles Olympic Trials and placed 71st in 2:50.29 despite being sick the week of the race.
Camp completed her third and final U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2020, placing 361st out of 390 entrants in 3:01.56.
Camp’s best marathon time was 2:37.26 when she placed seventh at the U.S. championships in 2013 in Minnesota.
Her many accomplishments also include winning the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in 2010 and 2011.
“Running down the final straightaway and finishing my second Cleveland Marathon, qualifying for my first Olympic Trials in 2011 is something I’ll never forget,” Camp said. “Sharing that day with so many family members, friends, and teammates was absolutely magical.”
Camp held Wayne County’s record in the 3,200 with a time of 11:10.30 until a pair of runners eclipsed it this spring. She ranks 14th in the 1,600 (5:19.80).
She was a state runner-up in the 3,200 in Div. III as a junior and also in Div. II as a senior. She placed fourth in the event as a sophomore. She also helped the 4×800 relay team to All-Ohio honors as a senior.
In cross country she placed third at the Div. III state meet in 2003 in 18:54 and seventh in 2002. Camp’s favorite sports memory came as a senior, when she crossed the finish line at the state meet and then watched freshman sister Joni finish 14th.
“Watching Joni fight to finish the most challenging race of her young career to that point and earn All-Ohio honors made my final high school cross country race extremely memorable,” Camp said.
At Toledo, Camp was a co-captain of the cross country and track programs. She received second-team All-MAC honors in 2006 in cross country.
Camp helped the Rockets to a runner-up finish at the 2005 MAC Cross Country Championships with her 22nd-place finish. She finished 17th at the 2004 MAC Cross Country Championships as a freshman.
She ran personal-best times of 17:33.65 for 5,000 meters, 36:56.88 for 10,000 meters and 10:12.88 for 3000 meters while at Toledo
Camp moved back to Ohio recently after living and training in Boulder, Colorado for eight years. She is very close with her parents, Dave and Michele, brother Justin and sisters Joni and Christine, as well four nephews and a niece
She works for Smucker’s in customer logistics. While living in Colorado, Camp worked for a holistic health company as the product coordinator.
While Camp might not be training for a shot at the Olympics anymore, running for fitness and maybe some fun races will still be a part of her life for many years to come.
Running is what Camp was meant to do, even if it took someone else to help her realize it.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of 10 articles on the 23rd biennial induction class of the Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame. They’ll be inducted during a ceremony at the Greystone Event Center June 24.