CRYSTAL LAKE – Brent Kampert didn't let the lights, cameras and national TV stations distract him from what he set out to do in New Jersey.
Kampert, a 28-year-old Crystal Lake resident, went to New Jersey to represent Team Illinois in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and came back with three top-10 finishes, including a silver medal in the 100-meter run. He also took fourth place in the 200-meter run and eighth place in the running long jump while his 4x100 relay team qualified in first but had to withdraw after an injury.
The competition, which ran from June 14 to June 21, was the highlight of an athletic career that has included being named co-captain of his high school track team in 2005 and earning Junior Male Athlete of the Year from the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association in 2001.
"When I can place in local events or big events I feel like I'm really representing and honoring God, Illinois, my family and friends and everyone who has helped me," Kampert said. "I have a strong passion [when I compete]. It was a great honor."
Kampert's rise to one of the best Special Olympic athletes in the country was not expected by doctors early on his life. Doctors did not know whether Kampert would ever walk or talk after he was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, ADHD and epilepsy.
He surpassed those expectations and now is even amazing former professional athletes with his dedication and progress in the weight room.
Jeff Gardiner, a former Arena Football League player and trainer at Charter Fitness, started working with Kampert in December to prepare him for the USA Games. Gardiner said he was amazed to see Kampert, who never lifted weights in his previous training, lift more and more weight each session.
"It was honestly incredible how he had never lifted weights before and we just kept adding weights every single workout. You typically never see that," Gardiner said. "He put in a lot of time outside of here that made him more successful in here. It was just incredible."
While he won a silver medal, Kampert said he was most proud of his fourth-place finish in the 200-meter run where he ran a personal best and pushed through an injury to move from sixth to fourth in the final stretch. He was also happy with his running long jump mark, improving from a seventh-place finish in state to eight overall in the country in the span of a year.
But Kampert is quick to give all the credit to his family, friends, coaches and all who support him. Kampert, who is also deeply religious, was quick to quote scripture about the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances.
"My family and friends back home showed so much encouragement and support and I gave them a big thank you when I got back," he said. "I'm very honored and blessed."
Coming off his big performance, Kampert plans to keep training and playing basketball and softball in recreational leagues locally. But it's not hard work all the time either.
Kampert said one of his favorite memories from the experience was spending a day in Philadelphia with his family and stopping at a local diner to enjoy an authentic Philly cheesesteak.
"I've never had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich like that," he said. "It was about a foot long and a half-foot tall, so it was awesome."
Those wishing to congratulate Kampert can see him on Crystal Lake city councilman Jeff Thorsen's float during the Lakeside Festival Parade at 1 p.m. Sunday.