Cammarata selected to Quaker Valley hall of fame as individual, member of 1983 XC squad
Whether on the track or the trails, there wasn't much that slowed Ben Cammarata.
A standout distance runner throughout his high school career, Cammarata helped Quaker Valley win WPIAL team titles in the fall and spring seasons — as well as a WPIAL 3,200-meter title of his own — and his achievements make him a part of the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2015.
The team success Cammarata was part of put him in a unique position. While there are many athletes in the hall as both an individual and as part of a team, Cammarata will get to enjoy his own induction along with that of one of his teams, the 1983 cross country team that won the WPIAL title in fall of his senior year.
“I couldn't say if I'm the first one, but it's kind of neat to be inducted twice in the same year,” Cammarata said. “I'm certainly thrilled that the whole team goes in. It's going to be fun.”
Cammarata began high school as a soccer player and a track athlete, but along with friend and championship-winning teammate, Sean Hamill, he decided to drop soccer and join the Quakers' cross country team in hopes of improving his performance.
That proved to be a wise decision as his distance running aided the school in its WPIAL track title during his junior season of 1983. He also recognized from his early success that the potential was there for him to contend for individual honors.
“I don't know that there was a particular point, but in my sophomore and into my junior year, I was cognizant that I was one of the better runners in Class AA,” he said. “The track team was good, and you knew it would have a shot at a title every year. But after running against the same people for a few years, you start to know where you stand against the other competitors, and you know you have a shot at a title unless some phenom comes up as a freshman. But I still had to put the work in. It wasn't just going to happen.”
In his senior year, it did happen.
Cammarata placed third at the WPIAL cross country championships in 1983, but any disappointment at a near miss was offset by the team title. At the 1984 WPIAL Class AA track championship, the individual gold finally became his in the 3,200 after medaling at the meet all three previous years.
His high school success gave Cammarata a choice of many colleges to continue running, but he elected to take an invited walk-on spot at Indiana, a very strong school both on and off the track.
“I think I could've had fun running anywhere. I applied to four or five schools and got into three or four of them,” Cammarata said. “For my decision, I went with the best combination of both academics and athletics, and even looking back on it today, I think I made the right decision.”
Cammarata showed he could handle the step up in competition by lettering three times in cross country and once in track for the Hoosiers. He finished as high as 23rd individually in the Big Ten cross country championships — a lofty spot for a walk-on runner.
“I definitely went to being the minnow in the ocean there,” he said. “It was a huge step up in terms of competition and training, but by my junior year, I was one of the top guys on our cross country team and was beating kids on scholarship.”
Cammarata's time at Indiana also helped him professionally as he now has a career in sales. He no longer runs competitively, he said, but he remains active as a frequent biker and also by coaching CYO track and cross country near his home in New Hope, located in eastern Bucks County.
But the cross-state trip won't stop Cammarata from returning home, as he plans to reunite with his soon-to-be Hall of Fame teammates for the induction weekend, which will end with the ceremony Sept. 20 at Sewickley Heights Golf Course.