Cameron Hutchinson knew as a freshman at Upper Arlington High School that he wanted to make the U.S. junior national rowing team by the time he was an upperclassman.

There was just one problem -- or, to be exact, two.

"I wasn't fast enough or strong enough," said Hutchinson, now heading into his senior year. "I told one of my coaches about my goal and he just told me to train for it. That was all I could do, work hard.

"Two years later, I made it."

Not only did Hutchinson make it, he came home from a month on the road with a gold medal.

After spending three weeks in USRowing's U18 High Performance Camp in Ashland, Oregon, Hutchinson competed in the USRowing Club National Championships that concluded July 15 in Camden, New Jersey, and helped win first place in the men's U19 8+.

Hutchinson's U18B HP Team took first in 6 minutes, 13.676 seconds on July 13, well ahead of Boston-based Community Rowing Inc. in second (6:16.921).

Hutchinson also helped his team finish third in International 8+ (5:55.085) on July 15 and fourth in U19 4+ B (6:56.258) less than two hours before the gold-medal race.

"The opportunity to get to compete at the next level like this, to be exposed to that kind of training and great competitors, it was incredible," Hutchinson said.

"I got to meet some incredible athletes and find out more about where I stand and where I need to improve. I trained with guys from Florida, Colorado, Seattle, Tennessee, lots of places. It's good to see where I stand going into my senior year."

Hutchinson, who helped UA's boys varsity 8 to an all-time best third-place finish in the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Nationals on the same course in May, said his best 2,000-meter time as a freshman was 7:27. Now, it is 6:33.

"How fast you can go for 2,000 meters is like the ACT or SAT of rowing," he said. "That's one of the first things any coach wants to know about you. In my boats, I had one of the slower times. That's why it's so good to see where other people stand. That gives you that much more to shoot for."

Rick Brown, the head coach at the High Performance Camp, said Hutchinson quickly emerged as a leader.

"Maybe a week or so into the camp, his work ethic was really standing out," Brown said. "Sometimes, a group of guys is not necessarily a team. But Cam was a key player, someone who brought the guys together. He definitely ate up the experience. He took our advice to heart and ran with it. Overall, he was solid. He emerged into that top eight at the camp; he earned his spot. This is going to help get him ready for whatever he does in the future."

Hutchinson said he plans to row in college, naming the Naval Academy, Syracuse and Wisconsin as potential destinations as well as a handful of Division III schools.

Even before that, Hutchinson hopes to compete in the 2019 World Junior Championships in Tokyo next summer. Like this year, he would have to be selected for a developmental camp and then make the cut from there to qualify.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave