UMF’s Robbie Hollis stays just ahead of a runner in the 10,000-meter race at the Maine State Men’s Outdoor Championships at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
University of Maine at Farmington cross country coach Dan Campbell checks the course during the North Atlantic Conference cross country championships in Farmington last year. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
Besides running track for University of Maine at Farmington coach Dan Campbell, Robbie Hollis has become a self-appointed, personal physician to his longtime mentor.
“He has always worried about my health and long hours on the job,” Campbell said. “He will text me three to four times a week and ask, ‘Are things going OK for you bub or dude?’ (He) makes me smile.”
Hollis also knows how to make the people around him beam, too. The UMF senior took academics seriously and strived to become a model student who will graduate in May.
Campbell and Hollis have known each other for about nine years and their solid friendship and mutual admiration was forged on and off the track.
“Robbie always presents himself caring for others,” Campbell said. “He has great dignity and character as an individual (who) has over come many personal roadblocks and has taken this adversity and made it his strength.”
The bond between the two men began when Hollis joined the Edward Little High School track team. Campbell was the skipper for the Red Eddies before he left to coach the Beavers.
“He showed promise (in distant events) then but was clearly a novice runner with a lot of heart,” Campbell said. “He was overshadowed by many great distant runners on our team (in high school).”
Campbell arrived at UMF to take over the track team during Hollis’s sophomore year.
He welcomed Campbell’s return to coaching, which would give Hollis another opportunity to learn from the experienced coach.
“I was really excited (for Campbell’s return),” Hollis said. “I know he brings a lot of energy to a team. It is not so much about his coaching, but he teaches athletes about coaching themselves and learns about everyone because everyone is different when wanting to improve and how they respond to that and he knows that.
“He has other aspects that make him a really good overall coach. I am really thankful for that.”
Hollis added that Campbell stands out as a coach because of his devotion to this athletes.
“I think as a person he is very qualified emotionally in regard to how he treats kids and just athletes in general,” Hollis said. “He has an understanding of people’s lives … so he is more than just a coach.
“Growing up in the past, I had a lot of different friends and different outlets. He actually helped me develop as a person and to become more selfless. I am very, very thankful for that.
“He is probably the most selfless person I have ever met. It’s as if he almost forgets about himself at times.”
Jack of all trades
Hollis competes in several events for UMF, but he is not exactly sure what is his signature competition.
“I am still trying to find the right event to reach my potential at,” Hollis said. “But I run anything from 1,500 meters and 5K to 10K (events).
“I enjoy all events because they test different strengths and weaknesses that I have.”
Campbell said Hollis, who has captained the Beavers for two years, always steps up no matter what event he is competing in during a meet.
“In college, Robbie can run a strong 800 up to qualifying for the NCAA New England’s 10,000,” Campbell said. “Robbie has had great memorable moments.
“His sophomore year as a UMF Beaver he won the cross country NAC (North Atlantic Conference) and then ran a great and exciting race to help the UMF men’s track and field team get a second-place finish. In the 2017 spring NAC, he beat the top seed in the 5k and set a stadium record.
“Robbie is a genuine person and appreciates what has been given to him. He takes nothing for granted and always gives back to others (when he’s not running).”
Campbell attributes Hollis’s success to his work ethic and genuine concern for the entire team.
“Robbie’s work ethic follows his passion and love for running,” Campbell pointed out “He’s always reading and surfing the net on how to become a better runner.
“Robbie is a coach’s dream to coach. He will do what you ask without question until he feels, ‘This may not be working for me anymore,’ and then will want to discuss what he feels would work better. As a coach of 35 years, I invite athletes’ insight, for they are part of the solution.
“Robbie’s finest attribute to the team is his strong work ethics, Robbie is a great power of example of what hard, consistent work will do for you as an athlete and a student.”
Making the grade
Hollis, 23, worked hard to get into UMF, knowing he was not prepared for the rigors of the university’s demanding curriculum. He is studying community health and education and set his sights on being a health teacher and possibly follow in Campbell’s path and become a coach.
“I attended UMF to get a better education,” Hollis said. “I took a year off after high school to work because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to a university, but I decided to apply to a few places and I got accepted here. I really enjoy it.”
UMF helped Hollis every step of the way to succeed in the classroom.
“I got accepted into the bridge program … basically I was short of a couple of required credits from high school,” Hollis explained. “I did graduate, of course, but I had to start in the bridge program and worked my way out. Took a few courses and now I am a community health major.
Looking back at his four years at UMF, Hollis is proud of improving his writing skills in just a short time to survive in the classroom. Failing writing grades soon turned into B’s and A’s because of his determination to improve.
“The biggest thing I enjoy is feedback, communication from my professors and being able to respond to that instead of looking at that as a bad thing and actually want to improve on my mistakes,” Hollis said, “I think that is very important.”
Campbell praises Hollis for setting his own destiny and thriving at UMF.
“Robbie has fought his way into education,” Campbell said. “School was not easy for him. (He) didn’t have the best environment to study when younger.
“He went to a community college to get into UMF and has worked real hard to get good grades, which I am glad to say he is proud of. His education was his way out and he took advantage of it. His family is very proud of him and he will be a first-generation college graduate.
“Anybody and everybody who knows Robbie Hollis smiles and are very, very proud and happy for him. May God bless them all.”
University of Maine at Farmington distance runner Robbie Hollis, left, gets ready to run in the 10,000-meter race at the Maine State Men’s Outdoor Championships at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
UMF’s Robbie Hollis stays with the pack in the 10,000-meter race at the Maine State Men’s Outdoor Championships at Bates College in Lewiston on Saturday. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)