A former Sonora Wildcat has been making waves since joining the rowing program at University of California, Santa Barbara.

Michael Campbell, a 2012 Sonora High graduate, not only battled a field of more than 100 hopefuls to earn a spot on the Gauchos' 40-man novice rowing team, he was also recently elected a team captain by his peers and led his boat of eight rowers to a first-place finish over UCLA in their second race of the season March 9.

"He's been a pleasure to have on the team," said UCSB Novice Mens' Rowing head coach Scott Wike. "Mike really stood out from his peers and they respected him, which is why he was elected a team captain."

Wike said Campbell's times were among the best at tryouts in October for the novice team, which consists entirely of rowers who have never previously competed in the sport.

Campbell took up rowing after learning about the team at a school event aimed at promoting various sports and campus clubs. He was a multi sport athlete at Sonora High, playing for the school's baseball, basketball, tennis and cross country teams.

"He has a phenomenal background in athletics and that really helps with rowing," said Wike. "We have one of the most physically talented groups we've ever had, and Mike is one of the top guys."

Campbell said experiences in other sports helped prepare him for competing at the college level.

"Every sport I've done has helped get me to this point, but the mentality in cross country is very similar to rowing and made for a very easy transition," Campbell said. "Glenn Bass (Sonora cross country head coach) was a great coach. He made me want to to go to practice everyday and work hard. He gave me the right mentality."

Campbell's boat of eight rowers beat UCLA by a whopping 17 seconds at the March 9 preliminary race held at Cachuma Lake.

The race lasted roughly five minutes with UCSB finishing about 100 meters ahead of UCLA. It was shortened to 1,400 meters from 2,000 due to extremely cold and windy weather that created choppy conditions on the lake.

One longstanding tradition in the sport of rowing dictates that losers forfeit their shirts to the winners, Campbell explained, so he now proudly hangs a Bruins jersey on a wall in his bedroom

"It's pretty fun getting to take their shirts," Campbell chuckled.

Campbell will need to make more room on his wall if he can lead his team to another victory this Sunday at the Newport Invitational Regatta.

"We're going up against some of the fastest teams around so this will kind of set the tone for the season," Campbell said.

Aside from athletics, Campbell, a freshman, is also pursuing a double major in economics and political science.

Campbell said he felt "humbled" by his peers naming him a captain of the novice rowing team.

"It's quite an honor being a captain of a large team like this in college," he said.