Pensacola's 8-year-old national champion

Pensacola's 8-year-old national champion. (Photo: Camron Chandler/Source: WEAR-TV)

Pensacola’s history is rich with young champions. But the area’s newest national champion has made a remarkable run to his title. In this case, remarkable does not mean lengthy.

Pensacola’s newest national champion has been running track since he turned 8-years old. Last April. Four months after taking up the sport, Longleaf Elementary third-grader, Camron Chandler, was the favorite in the 100-meter sprint, Augut 4th, at the AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I wanted to run because I was fast, but I didn’t know I was that fast,” Chandler explained.

His coach at the Golden Elite Track Club knew Camron was something special when he showed up, too small for football, too short for basketball.

“And the first day of practice,” according to Mike Etheredge, “I looked at him like, wow, this cat reminds me of some of the past athletes that we've had come through Pensacola.”

When did you find out you were faster than everybody?

‘When I had to race my big brother and I won, because he's pretty fast,” Chandler said.

How old is your big brother?

Chandler: 13

He's 13? He’s fast? And you beat him?

Chandler nods to each query.

When did that happen?

Chandler answered, “It happened a few months ago, like when I started track.”

It was just for fun when he started. But when he realized how fast he was, Camron says he started to take it seriously.

Etheredge elaborated, “He realized that it takes hard work. And he got his first medal in May. And from then on he was, ‘What do I need to do to get more medals?’ As an 8-year old, that's good.l”

That work brought him to the 100-meter Finals at the Junior Olympics. Camron was in Lane 4. The favorite’s lane.

"What were your thoughts when you saw how good the competition was?"

“I thought I was faster than them."”

He wasn’t only faster. I wasn’t close. He won the 100-meters in a time of :13.55, nine-hundredths of a second off the national record. It’s not a bad thing to leave a goal out there to keep chasing.

It’s always risky to predict the future of an 8-year old phenom. But he’s got a heck of a head start.

Etheredge said, “His form and technique, he hasn't even tapped into yet. He realizes and understands, after we studied film on him in the last week or so, that he says, ‘I can do better, I can get better.’"

When you thought, ‘Hey, I’m a National Champion,’ what did that feel like when you realized that?

Camron: “It made me proud of myself.”

Were you proud because you were fast, or proud because you worked for that?

“Proud because I worked for it.”

Camron Chandler’s arrival on the scene was sudden. It’s a good bet we’ll be watching him for awhile.

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