Big Brothers Point Way to Success for 2 Prep Stars : Track: Banning hurdler Terrence Campbell has the best possible role model. His brother Tonie is a three-time Olympian.
Terrence Campbell would sit in front of the television as a youngster and watch with envy as his older brother Tonie would win race after race in the hurdles.
Moments later, Terrence would rush out to the front lawn of the Campbell’s house in Carson and set up a line of cardboard boxes. Then he would jump over each one in succession and imagine he was his brother on his way to another victory.
The childhood fantasy would have to wait for years to become a reality, however, since Terrence didn’t begin running the hurdles competitively until his sophomore year at Banning High. By then, Tonie was gearing up for an unprecedented third straight appearance in the Olympic Games.
Terrence, 18, is a senior at Banning and in no way the track equal of his brother. But then again, when Tonie was a senior at Banning in 1978, he was a skinny kid just hoping to hook on with any college team.
Nearing his 30th birthday, Tonie has been ranked among the top 10 110-meter high hurdlers in the world for 11 straight years. He has been victorious at almost every large meet, and won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He is currently ranked third in the world, and is a solid bet to make the ’92 Olympic team.
Terrence has the second-fastest times in the City Section this spring in both the 110-meter high hurdles (14.1 seconds) and 300-meter intermediate hurdles (39.5). He won both events Thursday in the Southern-Pacific Conference championships at Carson, beating rival Curtis Hawkins of Carson in each race.
Terrence, eyeing his first City and state titles, considers Tonie his role model and looks to him for support.
“Who would have ever thought (my success) would last this long?” laughed Tonie the other day in between a workout with Terrence at Banning. “When I first made the Olympic team in 1980, I felt on top of the world. I told myself if this was the end of my track career I wouldn’t be upset because I never expected to get this far. Now many, many years later, I still feel the same. This has been the best roller-coaster ride of my life.”
And that ride has featured plenty of peaks and valleys, much the same course Terrence has taken in his young career. The Campbell brothers just never seem to take the easy road to success.
Both experimented with a variety of sports and got late starts in track. Both have had their share of grade troubles in the classroom, resulting in lengthy periods of ineligibility. And there have been the other normal growing-up problems.
“Tonie went through a period during his teen-age years where he was a little rebellious and wanted to do things his own way,” said Albert Campbell, the boys’ father. “He didn’t really settle down until he started having some success in track and receiving a few pats on the back.
“Terrence is a great kid with a lot of potential, but he just doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. All the potential in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t do something with it.”
Tonie, who attended USC, nearly had his scholarship revoked after his freshman year in 1979 when he posted disappointing times on the track and disappointing grades in the classroom. He was academically ineligible his senior season and never returned to college.
Terrence missed the first half of track season his sophomore year because of grade troubles, and voluntarily sat out the second half of last season to concentrate on his studies.
But they have been able to overcome the obstacles through strong family support and their desire to compete.
“If I do nothing else in high school track, I want to win City and state in the 110 hurdles to show everybody that I am capable,” said the 6-foot, 160-pound Terrence. “I’ve admired my brother’s successes for a long time, and I want to make him proud with some championships of my own. It would really mean a lot.”
The clearest observation of the two at this point is that Terrence has been blessed with more natural athletic ability than Tonie, but he has yet to show the same dedication to succeed. Time, they both say, will tell all.
“I’ve never wanted Terrence to feel like he had to fill my shoes,” Tonie said. “When he decided to go out for track, I told him to try all the events. The fact that he ended up in the hurdles didn’t have anything to do with my pressuring him.
“All I can say, is that if he gets real serious about the sport, it’s scary to think how far he might go. He definitely has a chance to be better than me.”
During high school, Tonie was anxiously looking for a sport to excel in so he could earn a college scholarship. He had played football and baseball his whole life, but at 5-10 and 145 pounds, he knew he was too small to enjoy a lengthy career in those sports. He went out for track as a sophomore and stumbled onto the hurdles because he said he was “too slow for the sprints, too weak for the long-distance races and hated field events.”
“I loved the hurdles right away because of my love for flying,” Tonie said. “Going up over them made me feel like I was a pilot. It has always been a great feeling for me.”
He ran on the junior varsity as a sophomore and qualified for the City finals in the 70-yard high hurdles and 330-yard low hurdles. He moved up to the varsity as a junior and qualified for the state meet in the 120-yard highs.
Tonie came into his own as a senior, dueling with his cousin Philip Johnson of Gardena to be the top hurdler in Southern California. The two went back and forth in victories in the high hurdles all season, but Johnson beat him in the City and state finals. Tonie set a personal-best time of 13.81 seconds that season, which still stands as the school record, although the race is now run in meters instead of yards.
Although Tonie wasn’t as well known as his cousin, USC took a chance and offered him a scholarship along with Johnson. His freshman year was a disaster--he was the worst of the school’s four hurdlers--and Coach Ken Matsuda threatened to revoke his scholar ship if he didn’t get his act together.
“The summer between my freshman and sophomore years was the turning point in my life,” Tonie said. “I really grew up. Coach Matsuda broke me mentally and physically and taught me a lot about life. I trained two times a day and really got in shape. I started to accept responsibility. I really wanted to keep my scholarship because if I lost it I was headed for a junior college and no opportunity to ever achieve all of my goals.”
After that summer, Tonie developed a close relationship with Matsuda, who has remained his coach to this day. And Tonie went from being the fourth-best hurdler on his own team to qualifying for the Olympics in the 110-high hurdles. He finished second in the Pac-10 championships and fourth in the NCAA finals. He finished third at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., with a 13.44. He even made the Dean’s List with a 3.72 grade-point average.
The United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which is still a sore spot with Tonie.
“I felt I could have earned a medal that year,” he said. “It took me a long time to get over not having the chance to go. When you’re 19 years old, it’s hard to understand setbacks like that.”
Tonie was rated the top high hurdler in the country his junior year, but since USC was on probation for using an ineligible athlete, the Trojans weren’t allowed to compete in the Pac-10 or NCAA championships.
By this point, Tonie was a world-class athlete and outgrowing his college competition. He took a tough course load the fall semester of his senior year and was ruled ineligible for track after failing to carry the necessary grade-point average. Coach Matsuda redshirted him, but Tonie decided to call it quits and devote all his time to training. He has yet to earn a college degree.
But his track career has been a glamorous one. In 1987, he was rated No. 2 in the world and has been No. 3 for three years running. Although he is considered an old man by track standards, his times continue to get better. He has run a 13.42 already this year and will travel to several big meets around the world this summer.
“I said I was going to retire after the 1988 Olympics, and here I still am,” said Tonie, who is now 6-3 and 170 pounds. “Now I figure I will retire after the ’92 games. But knowing my track record, I’ll probably still be around in ’96.”
It is unlikely that Terrence will follow directly in his brother’s footsteps. For starters, Terrence also plays football and earned a scholarship in that sport to Cal State Fullerton.
Terrence played football his sophomore year at Banning, but sat out as a junior to concentrate on track. He went out for football again this year and played as a wide receiver. He admits that football is a game he’s loved since he was a little kid.
He didn’t begin his track career until he was a sophomore, but after years of observing Tonie he felt he knew the sport long before he started. He always wanted to run the hurdles, he said, because the event is very graceful.
His successes to date have been limited because he has sat out much of the past two years, but this season he has lost only one race in the 110 highs. His list of victories includes the prestigious Mt. SAC Invitational three weeks ago. And with Thursday’s conference victories, he appears to be hitting his peak in time for the City finals, scheduled May 24 at Birmingham High. Preliminaries begin Thursday.
Terrence, who with 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash is considered quick, said his goal is to break his brother’s school record.
“I think I have the ability to do it,” he said. “Everyone I know feels I can do it. I guess it’s just up to me now to prove I can.”
Banning Coach Kem Stumpf has given him plenty of support, but the extra edge is being provided by Tonie. The elder brother has been spending many of his workouts with Terrence, helping him in any way he can. When he’s not there, he gives Terrence his workout over the telephone.
“Don’t let our age difference fool you,” Tonie said. “We’re as close as two brothers can be. We help each other out and provide pointers. When Terrence notices I’m doing something wrong, I welcome his observations. And he looks to me for the same advice.”
Coach Matsuda, who has closely watched both track careers, said: “Terrence has all the tools to be a great one. We’re all just waiting on pins and needles to see if he does anything with it. It’s really in his hands.”