Mykel Campbell admits he had to learn how to take this seriously.
When he was a freshman on Lincoln High’s track team, Campbell looked at the senior jumpers and thought he could do well in the same events. While he never thought of himself as particularly fast, Campbell knew he was athletic. He said he competed in one invitational that season, but didn’t start really focusing until the end of the year.
“I didn’t like losing,” he said, “so I was like, I’m going to start practicing and stop joking around.”
Now, Campbell is the top-ranked high-jumper in the state of Washington who won the 3A district meet with a jump of six-feet, six-inches. That’s a long way from the season-best 5-08 he recorded as a freshman.
The biggest factor in his improvement, Campbell said, was finding that focus. But he still has his goofy side.
Take last week’s district meet, for example. Lincoln head coach Duane Lee said Campbell likes to open at 6-0 with a scissor kick, which is unique all on its own. But after his first jump at districts, Campbell also bounced off the mat and immediately ran over to the triple jump, where he jumped 44 feet.
“Just like that,” Lee said with a grin, “all in one smooth movement. It was crazy.”
One part of that moment was Campbell’s personality, which his coaches describe as carefree and relaxed. The other was his athleticism. Along with excelling as a track athlete, Campbell is a three-star wide receiver and a standout basketball player for the Abes.
But he’s described as a natural athlete on the track, like this is what he was made to do. When he was a freshman, Campbell was so quiet it took Lee half of the season to be sure he was even on the team. But even then, Lee was told Campbell was going to be special.
“His athleticism is off the charts,” Lee said. “He’s a varsity football player. He’s a varsity basketball player and obviously he’s a varsity track athlete. He’s a rare guy anymore. If you’re lucky, you get a kid that plays two sports anymore. He’s rare and he’s very astute in all three sports.
“He just has a lot of athletic ability. I think all of the coaches have done a great job working with him, keeping him level-headed at times. To account to it? I think it’s a little bit of his own passion for athletics in itself and trying to be the best that he can be and it turns out the way it does for him.”
Football has been Campbell’s favorite sport since sixth grade. He didn’t like the contact at first but by eighth grade, he started to embrace it. All of the sports, he said, help him improve at the others.
“My mom had me do all these sports so I would stay focused on something and wouldn’t have too much time on my hands to go do stuff I wasn’t supposed to be doing,” Campbell said. “She wanted me to stay focused in school and sports so I wouldn’t have any other distractions.”
Campbell still likes to tell jokes. He enjoys making other people laugh, even his opponents. Now, though, he’s found a way to stay loose and also perform.
“It makes me a little bit confident in myself because I used to always put myself down against everybody else because if people were better than me, I would just admit it,” he said of his improvement. “But then I was just like, I could be better if I actually try and stop joking around. … I felt like I was just the joker but these stats, they feel good.”
And Campbell has bigger goals in mind. He wants to take home the title at this week’s Class 3A state meet that begins Thursday at Mount Tahoma High School. He also wants to move higher up on the school record list. Campbell’s season-best is 6-8, and he has 6-10 in his sights.
“It’s a big stage and he loves the big stage where he can display that personality and just let everybody see who Mykel really is,” Lee said. “He has a lot of fun.”