It was a banner year, to say the least, for Olympic distance runner Cam Levins, whose name has been added to the Walk of Achievement Olympians plaque at the Comox Valley Sports Centre.
The Black Creek athlete was honored in a Tuesday ceremony at the Comox Valley Regional District boardroom, where his parents, Barb and Gus, and members of the public watched a short film featuring him in action at the 2012 London Games.
Levins placed 11th in the 10,000 metres. He also became the first Canadian in a century to qualify for a 5,000m final.
The 2007 Vanier graduate set a personal best of 13:18.29 in the 5,000m qualifying round. The race was among the fastest heats in Olympic history.
“I had to run fast in order to make it through,” said Levins, 23.
Great Britain’s Mo Farah won the final in 13:41.66 to add the 5,000m to his 10,000m gold medal. American Bernard Lagat, an idol of Levins, finished fourth in 13:42.99. Levins, beset by a chest cold before the final, ran 13:51.87, finishing 14th in the 15-man field.
“It happens,” he said. “I’ll be more prepared for it next time. You do what you can to try and stop it from happening. You can only control some of the aspects. Lots of guys fell in their races. Far worse things could have happened. At least I was able to finish my races and still give the best performance I could.”
Levins did not quite achieve a personal best in his Olympic debut Aug. 4, but he nevertheless ran the best-ever 10,000m Olympic race by a Canadian. He ran 27:40.68. His best is 27:27.96 — second fastest in Canadian history.
“I was very happy with the 10k and my 5k heats. After getting 11th in the 10k I was really hoping to break into the top 10 in the 5k. It was a tough day. Hopefully next time I’m challenging for a medal and I won’t even remember that race.”
He was referring to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for which he can train full-time after signing a long-term sponsorship contract with Nike.
He did so after running his final NCAA race for Southern Utah University earlier this year. He graduated with a degree in exercise science.
With a population of about 8,000 students, SUU has not won a Division 1 NCAA track and field title, but he said the school has produced some all-Americans in the past decade or so.
“That’s one of the reasons why I went there because I knew they had a good tradition of track and field,” he said.
Before the Olympics, Levins had become the top collegiate distance runner in North America by winning the 5,000m and 10,000m at the prestigious NCAA championships. He had also won his share of major competitions including the Mt. Sac Relays 5,000m and the Payton Jordan 10,000m, where he achieved Olympic standards. In the spring, he won the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) cross-country championships in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
He capped his season last weekend by winning a third straight title at the 2012 Canadian Cross Country Championships at Jericho Park in Vancouver. Levins won a tight 10-kilometre race in 29:41, just ahead of Mohammed Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ont. in 29:42. Kelly Wiebe of Swift Current, Sask. won the bronze in 29:45.
Levins ran about two minutes, 15 seconds faster than last year.
“The course was just a mud pit last year,” he said. “That’s the thing about cross country, the times can be hard to judge. But it was a much faster day than last year.”
Between now and 2016, Levins will be a volunteer coach at SUU. He will also compete at the world cross country championships in Poland in March, and the world track and field championships later in the year and in following seasons.
“Lots of racing to do and lots of experience to garner,” he said. “I’ve been given a very good opportunity by Nike to allow me to train and to chase my dreams.
“Hopefully have another good 10 years – hopefully a couple more Olympics.”
For the next year at least he will continue living near SUU. From there he and his girlfriend will consider their options. After completing a chemistry undergraduate degree, she will enter pharmacy school.
“It’s a little bit dependent on where she ends up as well,” he said. “If in the end I need to go somewhere else from where she is, what happens happens, but ideally we’d like to end up in the same area.”