By Bill Sorrell
A Passion for Track
Nick Campbell’s magic number has been 54.
A 54-second run in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, his specialty, would have set the school record and qualified him provisionally for the NCAA national track championships.
“That’s kind of cool, killing two birds with one stone,” said Rhodes track coach Robert Shankman.
By chance, Campbell has had 54 as his locker number and track sweat suit number.
This spring, Campbell, a junior from Dunwoody, GA, was the top-ranked hurdler in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. At last year’s conference meet, he ran the 400 hurdles in 56.34 seconds and the 110-meter high hurdles in 15.75 seconds.
Captain of the men’s track team, Campbell also ran the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. He was MVP of the team as a sophomore.
Campbell (5-10, 170) was chosen February Athlete of the Month by the Student Athletic Advisory Committee.
“He’s super-motivated. He does above and beyond what the coaches ask of him,” said Shankman. “He has a tremendous work ethic.”
Endurance, athleticism, quickness and speed, all traits Shankman described as “great,” have enabled Campbell to run his course.
He was also the starting tailback on Rhodes’ football team his sophomore season and started the second half of his freshman season.
Track has been his passion.
“I’m thrilled by the whole experience of running. It’s not just the running, it’s being able to feel your body moving faster than someone else’s. It’s pure sport and pure competition. Competition seems real to me. In track, it’s self vs. self and self vs. everybody else. There hasn’t been a split-second I was wishing I was somewhere else other than the track.”
A triathlete, Campbell has run to new heights through the inspiration of his late grandfather, William Pryor. He was a Presbyterian pastor in Camden, AR., and the brother of former Sen. David Pryor (D-AR).
Campbell’s mother, Louise Pryor Campbell ’74, is first cousin to Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor.
“Growing up, he would take us trout fishing and concentrate on the basics of casting,” said Nick of his grandfather. (An avid fisherman, Nick, 21, once caught a 7-pound largemouth bass in Georgia’s Lake Lanier).
“He was real sensitive to me and my brother (Alex Campbell, 23) and wanted to show us the way.”
Campbell is an English major and a musician. He plays the cello. He took lessons for eight years. He also plays the guitar and piano. He writes poetry.
Campbell has gone like the wind in improving technique and increasing foot speed.
“Hurdling is so much about good technique. I really have to focus on flexibility and agility and not just running. I know I’m headed in the right direction for even greater things next season. I don’t want to go back, I want to go forward. I want to get to the next level.”
Lynx Boast Dynamic Duo of Hoops
Time will tell where Rami Almefty and Taylor Cook finish among the top scorers in Rhodes’ basketball history.
Both juniors, Almefty reached 1,000 career points on Jan. 7; Cook on Jan. 9.
That night Cook scored 23 points in the first half to lead the Lady Lynx to a 77-65 victory over 8th-ranked and Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Trinity University.
Rhodes’ women finished with a 16-10 record, the third most wins in school history and two wins short of the school record of 18, which has occurred twice.
Almefty, a shooting guard from Little Rock, will enter his senior season with 1,202 points. Cook, a center/forward from Randolph, NJ, has 1,216 points. She ranks fourth in all-time scoring and is 491 points away from becoming the school’s leading scorer.
Almefty, who ranks 19th, is the third Lynx to reach 1,000 points in three seasons. Others were Mike O’Keefe (1978-81) and Neal Power (1997-2001).
Almefty and Cook were presented engraved clocks by men’s coach Herb Hilgeman and women’s coach Matt Dean.
During the 2004-05 season, Almefty and Cook each averaged 17 points. Both were team captains. Both were named to the SCAC second team. Both finished second in the league in scoring. They were selected the conference’s Player of the Week.
Almefty (5-10, 170) was SCAC Newcomer of the Year in 2002-03. Cook (5-11) was first team all-conference in 2003-04 and named a preseason All-America this past season by Women’s D-3 News.
“She’s as good a scorer as any in the country. She’s one of the best scorers I’ve coached in 14 years,” said Dean. “She’s tremendous on the post. She faces the basket so well. She has great range in her jump shots. She has exceptional drives to the basket.”
One reason for Rhodes’ success was Cook’s doubling her productivity in rebounds (5.6) and on defense.
“She’s become the compelete player,” said Dean.
One of Cook’s goals was to contribute more on defense.
“I like defensive intensity. If you can shut down one of the top players in the league, that’s a good feeling. Then you can score all you want,” she said.
Almefty “exemplifies what a Division 3 athlete is all about,” said Hilgeman, who finished his 29th season with the Lynx 7-16.
“He’s one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching. He is absolutely one of the best ever, not only as a basketball player but as a person.”
Majoring in biology, Almefty has a 3.69 overall grade point average.
His father, Ossama Almefty, is a nationally-acclaimed neurosurgeon and chairman of the neurosurgery department of the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Center. Rami’s mother, Janice, is a nurse and works in his father’s office.
In high school, Cook and Almefty were all-state. Almefty led Pulaski Academy to the state championship his senior season. He was MVP of the state tournament.
While admitting no one is perfect, Hilgeman said,” Rami is about as close (to perfect) as you can get in grades, in life, in basketball.”
For Almefty, perfection would be in a game.
“The perfect game, we’d win in a blowout,” he said. “I would shoot perfect from the free throw line, the field and 3-point line. I’d have a triple double—double digits in points, rebounds and assists.”
A great cap to Cook’s senior season, said Dean, would be a conference championship and NCAA tournament bid, something that hasn’t been accomplished.
“That’s our goal for next year,” said Dean.