TRACK AND FIELD: Hoppel relies on family to reduce stress
Before Bryce Hoppel took part in the US Olympic Team Trials 2020 in June, he felt a sense of stress like never before.
The night before the men’s 800 meter final, which was due to take place at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, the stress group sat in the pit of his stomach.
Having a chance at the Olympics every four years did not reassure Hoppel, because he too forgot his ID before the last qualifying race.
His family’s support system helped him overcome the initial fear.
“I didn’t feel alone,” said Hoppel. “If I tried to do it alone, I don’t think I would have made it. I’ve seen it go through with me.
“I didn’t get there alone and I didn’t go through it alone, they all got me to this point so it made it all bearable to do it with them.”
With a third place in one minute and 44.14 seconds, Hoppel secured his place in the American Athletics Olympiad.
Midland RockHounds general manager Monty Hoppel, Bryce’s father, tried to reassure his son before the qualifying race by telling him that the process is no different from some of the races he had previously participated in.
The long-distance runner had already collected various honors, including a first place in the 800 at the 2020 USA Indoor Athletics Championships in Albuquerque and fourth place at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Qatar.
“He always showed a good performance in big races,” said Monty Hoppel. “His big thing is that he really looks forward to big races.
“I had a feeling that he would be fine and you just hope that everything turns out to be in the top three.”
Before Bryce Hoppel booked his place for the Tokyo Games, he established himself as a top athlete at Midland High and the University of Kansas.
He started playing soccer when he was in high school and shifted his focus to track and cross country until late into his sophomore season.
Although he entered the sport later in his high school career, Hoppel fell in love with the track and set his expectations high between his junior and senior years as a bulldog.
He told his parents that he wanted to become an Olympian.
In 2016, he won an 800-meter Class 6A state championship as a senior, then became record holder and NCAA national champion in three seasons in Kansas.
After giving up his senior season with the Jayhawks, Hoppel signed a professional contract in 2019 to represent Adidas.
It was a rapid rise as a track and field athlete for the former soccer player.
With all of his early successes, Hoppel never forgot the lessons he had learned during his training in Midland.
Work ethic was enforced every day in the practice by former high school coaches Hilberto Ochoa, Jeff Streun, and Tony De La Rosa.
“I just remember learning everything about the sport back then and now I’m doing it here. It’s crazy how things change, ”said Hoppel. “Not only did they make us great athletes, they were also great role models.”
Streun saw his former runner qualify for the Olympics when he took part in the qualifying races in Oregon.
He remembered seeing Hoppel run a mileage relay in eighth grade, in which the athlete ran to a competitor from about 100 meters away.
The future Olympian didn’t compete for Streun until almost two years later, but the trainer saw the runner’s potential.
Streun said Hopper’s qualification for the Olympics was one of the highlights of his life.
“It was fun to see how this guy, whom you know personally and who has trained at this level, is successful,” said Streun. “It was a special occasion indeed after he qualified.”
Since banning his squad spot, the Midland native has spent time preparing for a flight to Japan.
In the past two weeks, Hoppel has participated in Diamond League races in Monaco and England.
He finished 11th with a time of 1: 47.74 in Monaco and fifth in England after a time of 1: 45.45.
Although his family and other spectators are not allowed to enter the Olympic Village, Hoppel knows about the unwavering support of his community.
He will go into his first Olympic race with the same mentality that he had for the qualifying tests.
“If you go into it, it’s just competing, competing,” said Hoppel. “All you have to do is get in the top three every time.
“I feel like a born competitor and I’ll go out there and do what I love.”
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