Cameron Levins is not a babe in the woods, even though he's from a small town on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
He knows what high-level competition is all about he's an Olympic contender in the 5,000 meters for Canada.
Yet even Levins was taken aback a bit by the buzz of expectation that enveloped the recent Millrose Games and the historic Wanamaker Mile inside New York City's Armory.
Levins, a senior at Southern Utah, bounced around the 200-meter indoor track to a seventh-place finish and an NCAA qualifying time of 3 minutes, 57.16 seconds. His time ranks eighth in the nation and set a new all-time record for Southern Utah.
"It was really an intense atmosphere," said Levins, preparing for Friday's Summit League Indoor Championship, hosted by IPFW in Fort Wayne, Ind. "It was an amazing spectacle of a meet. People in the crowd were yelling out my name. I didn't know I had any fans."
Levins may be the best distance runner in Utah who no one knows about. BYU's Miles Batty, who set the indoor collegiate mile record at the Millrose Games, grabs most, if not all, of the attention.
However, Levins is right on Batty's heels. And at age 22, the Black Creek, British Columbia, native has yet to reach his peak.
"There's a lot more in the tank," SUU coach Eric Houle said. "He's fairly young, and a lot of times a [distance] runner's prime is between 26 and 29."
Houle plans to run Levins in two distance events at the league championships: the mile and 5,000. The aim is to expend just enough energy to win both, but not to burn out for the upcoming NCAA Indoor Championships in Boise, Idaho.
For example, his best time for the 5,000 meters is 13:40.30, but if the slender, 5-foot-10, curly-headed runner finishes at a bit more than 14 minutes it should be good enough to take the double.
"I'm confident," Levins said. "It is really how you feel mentally. I feel like I'm really getting used to running on a 200-meter track. The turns are tighter, and there is a shorter straightaway."
Levins, a two-time gold medalist at the Canadian Junior Nationals and winner of the 2010 Canadian Cross Country Championship, has set his eyes on a much bigger prize a trip to London as a member of his country's Summer Olympic team.
Last March, Levins was the top Canadian finisher at the World Cross Country Championships, crossing the line in Punta Umbria, Spain, in 57th place.
Although the 5,000 is Levins' best chance, he's not picky.
"I will go in whatever they'll take me in," he said with a laugh. "I believe I can be a lot better."
During the Wanamaker Mile, Levins confessed to being swept along in the jet stream of the front-runners.
It was an unusual experience. But Levins has continued to improve and break new ground since he began running.
"I guess I never knew what I was capable of," he said.
Levins is a case of meeting and passing potential.
"He's dedicated in all levels," Houle said.
Cameron Levins file
He's the first Southern Utah runner to break the 4-minute mile mark. He has an outdoor-best, 1,500-meter time of 3:45.38.
Levins, whose best time in the 5,000 is 13:40.30, is a top Canadian contender for the upcoming Olympic trials.
Levins finished seventh in the prestigious Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in an NCAA-qualifying time of 3:57.16.