Alyssa Campbell’s rise to captaincy and journey to Nationals


Submitted by Alyssa Campbell

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

In NAIA competition, making nationals in cross country is a feat that many runners are longing to achieve once during their college careers. Many try and fall short, but some receive that opportunity to shine on a national stage. For Point Park senior Alyssa Campbell, she earned her way to nationals three times over the course of four seasons. However, Campbell did not become a running sensation overnight.

Campbell grew up in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, which is a small town in Beaver County. She attended New Brighton High School and was involved in many activities during her tenure there. Campbell played softball before high school and was in her school’s musical all four years. Nevertheless, she knew that cross country was her niche.

At New Brighton, Campbell’s father, Michael Campbell, was the head coach for cross country. Campbell said she is grateful for having her father coach her and knew that having him as a coach would assure that cross country is the path she wanted to follow.
With Point Park University close in proximity and the unique city atmosphere, attending Point Park was an easy decision for her.

“I chose Point Park because it was within an hour of my hometown,” said Campbell. “I get a little bit of separation from home, but it’s also close enough. I’m really close with my family, so I can always come home when need be. I really loved the urban setting. I come from a small town and being in Pittsburgh is very stimulating, and I need that.”

Campbell took no time to produce for the team during her freshman year. In her first meet at the Ohio Christian University Trailblazer Invitational 3k, Campbell finished second out of all runners, only behind teammate Anna Shields.

In her next meet at the 2018 Tommy Evans Invitational 5k, Campbell would get her first race against Division-1 schools such as Akron, Kent State, Youngstown State, etc. Campbell would yet again have an outstanding performance, finishing 11th out of all runners, and second for her team.

In the Louisville Sports Commission Cross Country Classic, Campbell would end her first 5,000 meters in first place, leading her team to seventh out of 43 teams. At the River States Conference (RSC) Championship, she had yet another strong performance. Her efforts allowed her to qualify for nationals.

At nationals, Campbell finished 29th and earned All-American honors in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Her early success may seem like it took no adjustments to go from high school to college cross country, but it took her a lot of time and dedication.

“Cross country in high school was very different. For example, you add up your mileage per week in cross country, and that’s just something that I never really did,” Campbell said. “My mileage increased greatly and so did the intensity, so that was a big thing.”
Not only did her mileage per week increase, but she was also running more throughout the year competitively.

“When I did cross country in high school, then, we didn’t have an indoor track, so I did musicals and that was my break. Then I would go straight into outdoor track, but here [at Point Park] there is indoor track. I’m running nine months out of the year competitively. I’m running 11 months altogether with summer, so that was a drastic change.”

With an All-American freshman year, Campbell had yet another outstanding year as a sophomore, finishing first at both the Carnegie Mellon Invitational and at the RSC Championship. With Shields graduating, Campbell took leadership and her first-place accomplishment at the RSC Championship qualified her and the team at the NAIA National Championship.

Her success throughout her sophomore season would lead to her becoming captain of the team for her junior season in 2020. This was an opportunity that Campbell said she always wanted.

“I always wanted to be captain, but I wanted it only if I felt only as my coaches and my team felt as though I deserved it because it is an important role with our new coach,” Campbell said. “He was our assistant before and now he’s our head coach. Coach [Tim] Creamer takes the captain roles pretty seriously, and I feel really blessed that he felt that I could be interested in that role.”

In her first meet of 2020, Campbell came in first place out of all runners, which led to the Pioneers coming in first out of third teams. She would only compete in three meets in 2020, but in her other two meets, Campbell placed second in both. In the Midwest XC Challenge, the team would come in first out of nine teams.

Despite the success throughout the uncertain season, Campbell missed the RSC Championship due to COVID-19, which caused her to be unable to qualify for nationals. This was her first time missing out on nationals.

Although her junior season ended in a disappointing way, Campbell found a positive outcome of the 2020 season.

“We had hardly any meets, and it was really hard to come by, but I think now everybody’s kind of in a rhythm,” said Campbell. “We have the extra season of eligibility now for COVID that we all get. So people lost that out because we couldn’t race now we get to use that [extra season of eligibility].

Heading into her senior year, Campbell strived to make nationals again. In Campbell’s five meets she competed in, Campbell was in the top 2 four times. On Oct. 23, 2021, the Pioneers ended up being the first out of 36 at the Great Lakes Challenge in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Campbell was a huge part of the success, ending up in second. However, the team produced, having four runners within the top 35.

At the RSC Championship, Campbell ended the year off strong, finishing in first place. Although Campbell has had many impressive performances, her coaches considered this her most memorable race.

During the race, Campbell said competition motivated her to help her team win the race.

“The girl in second place. We have a little bit of a rocky history. She hasn’t always been the nicest, but that’s not anything against her. She and I get along, but she’s very competitive and I’m more like, ‘Hi, I’m Alyssa. What’s your name? How are you?’ So our personalities just kind of clashed.”

When Campbell had the chance to pass her and take home the race, she showed no hesitation and went full speed to the end.

“In that moment, it fueled me because I was upset. Then I was like, I can’t let this girl beat me, so it was like a flip switch went off, and I was just running and then all of a sudden I wasn’t running anymore. I was sprinting, and I was so fueled. I had so much energy. I had tunnel vision so that finish was absolutely incredible for me and being able to do that for my team—that’s all I could think about was that I’m doing this for my team.”

Despite the team’s showing, the team fell short of first by three points, which meant that the team as a whole did not qualify for nationals. However, Campbell and Point Park freshman Jana Schmid both qualified individually for the race.

In the 2021 NAIA National Championship in Vancouver, Washington, Campbell and Schmid fell short of All-American honors in the top 30, but both had a wonderful experience together. This time around was different for Campbell without her team, but she is still grateful for the opportunity.

“My sophomore year when it was my team, it was a wonderful experience at Vancouver. Then this year I really loved going with Jana. We got a lot closer,” she said.

Despite not becoming All-American this year, she said she will always remember what her mother reminds her and tells her as motivation.

“I always worry I’m going to let people down, but something that really motivates me is what my mom told me is ‘Alyssa, no matter what, no matter how you do, I’m going to love you no matter what,’ and that was a motivator for me and that’s something I feel like more people should hear because it takes the pressure off of you.”

Campbell said she aims to have a healthy and solid senior track season with her team.

“This is my final track season, so I’m taking a different approach, and I’m looking forward to being with my team. We’re going to take the conference championship, I hope so,” said Campbell. “I’m just hoping that we can get some girls to Nationals and I’m hoping I can go as well and we are set up though, keep an eye on this, this is going to be good stuff.”

Campbell was contemplating using her last season of eligibility for a “super-senior” season at Point Park but was hesitant at first.

However, Campbell is set to graduate in the Fall of 2022 and is returning for one last season for the cross country team. She said she looks forward to having one last campaign with the team.

“My team is my everything. I would not be where I’m at today without them,” she said. “They bring so much joy and that is all mental. If I’m having a hard day, and there are days that I don’t want to work out, we’re all there together and we all get through it together.”