Featured Stories

How Latter-day Saint Runner and Two-Time National Champ Finds Joy

Latter-day Saint runner Anna Camp-Bennett (center) works her way to the front of the pack during the NCAA women’s 1,500-meter finals on June 12, 2021. The BYU athlete won the race. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Jason Swensen, Church News

As an elite athlete and a devout Latter-day Saint, Anna Camp-Bennett has found joy arriving in many forms.

The first form is obvious.

The Brigham Young University distance runner relishes the joy of claiming two collegiate national championships (yes, plural) in recent months. In March, she was a key contributor on the Cougars’ NCAA-winning cross country team. Then Camp-Bennett claimed an individual NCAA national crown on June 12 after breaking the finish-line tape in the women’s 1,500-meter race.

But there is also joy, she added, found in each text and in congratulatory well-wishes from her friends, neighbors and fellow members from the small town she will always call home — Fillmore, Utah (population 2,650).

There is joy in the day-to-day, race-to-race support from her athletic-but-non-runner husband, Kieran Bennett.

BYU national champion runner Anna Camp-Bennett and her husband, Kieran Bennett, enjoy a moment together after she wins the NCAA 1,500-meter title on June 12, 2021. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

And joy lifts “Sister” Camp-Bennett any Sunday she teaches her Primary class in her Provo, Utah, ward.

When the Church News caught up with Camp-Bennett a few days after she competed in the recent U.S. Olympic Team Trials, she was rediscovering the well-earned joys of a few empty calories.

“I’ve been eating ice cream every day,” she said, laughing. “In a few days, we’ll start getting back into training.”

Some residual momentum from March’s BYU cross country team championship likely helped fuel Camp-Bennett to her recent individual title. But she and her coach, Diljeet Taylor, spent the past year focusing on the 2021 national race in the 1,500 meters.

“I did go into the race fully believing I was capable of winning, if I ran smart and ran well,” she said. “But you never really know how a race will go or if somebody else will have a breakout performance.”

The 23-year-old utilized a powerful kick with just over 100 meters left in the race to separate her from her rivals, cross the finish line first and reward her family and teammates with a celebratory fist pump.

Latter-day Saint runner Anna Camp-Bennett pumps her fist after winning the NCAA 1,500-meter national title on June 12, 2021. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
Download Photo

“That was a thrilling performance by Anna,” said BYU associate director of track and field Diljeet Taylor in a school news release. “She has a tremendous kick and was so determined on that homestretch for the win.”

There were moments during her freshman year at the Church-owned school when Camp-Bennett battled bouts of insecurities on the track. She had grown up in a small town and now found herself training alongside some of the fastest college athletes in the country.

But she persisted and progressed.

She treasures her Fillmore roots. Growing up in a tight-knit rural community offered her opportunities to excel in numerous high school sports, to serve in student government and make lifelong friends — all while feeling like an integral part of her Latter-day Saint community.

“There’s just something about my town that will always have my heart,” she said. “And I was also blessed to have some really great high school coaches that taught me life lessons that I still hang on to.”

She adds she is blessed to be a Latter-day Saint athlete.

“Growing up, I was taught to have a larger perspective on things. I always knew that track was [an important] part of my life — but it’s not all my life. I know my worth isn’t tied to how I perform. ... I know my actual worth comes from the fact that I am a daughter of God.”

Camp-Bennett is quick to note the athletic advantages of growing up in a large, sports-loving family where everything turned into a competition. Her parents, Carl and Kristine Camp, and her seven siblings were always one another’s biggest fans at their games. Her victories are their victories.

While 2021 has been unforgettable for Camp-Bennett, the speedy runner has no plans to slow down. She will return to BYU next fall for a final season of cross country. There is, after all, a national title to defend. Then she hopes to run professionally and one day qualify for the Olympic Games.

BYU runner Anna Camp-Bennett (far right, bottom row) joins Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon (right) and Sister Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency (left) as they host the BYU women’s cross country championship squad and women’s track and field distance medley relay team in the Relief Society Building on Temple Square in April 2021. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Away from the track, the family studies major looks forward to navigating her own professional career while supporting her husband, Kieran, in his professional endeavors. The two met in a BYU accounting class. They did not enjoy the class much — but quickly found they enjoyed being with each other.

The Bennetts were married in the Payson Utah Temple a couple of years ago.

“I do feel very fortunate to have married someone who is so incredibly supportive,” she said. “My long-term goal is to coach at the college level when I’m done with my own running.”

Camp-Bennett points to her parents as “super examples” of Church service. Now, as a Primary teacher, she enjoys taking a break from her sport and studies to teach little ones about the gospel.

“They all have a glow and light about them,” she said. “I just enjoy being around them.”

Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.