Jayhawk Insider: Hoppel’s season debut has familiar feel
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas junior Bryce Hoppel picked up wins in the one-mile run and the 800-meter run in his season debut at the KU-KSU-WSU Triangular, earning a share of the meet’s high-point award, but the pair of victories was déjà vu for the Midland, Texas native.
In 2018, Hoppel opened his indoor campaign with a pair of wins in the same events, at the same meet—then went on to finish first in five of the next six individual races he competed in. The only race he didn’t win in that timespan? The prelims of the 800 meters at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in which he finished third before winning the conference 800 title in the finals the next day.
Following the 2018 Big 12 Indoor Championships, Hoppel went on to earn First Team All-America honors in his first-career NCAA Championships appearance by finishing sixth in the prelims and eighth in the final in College Station, Texas.
His sophomore indoor season, in which he finished as the No. 2 performer in Kansas indoor history with a season-best time of 1:47.09 at the ISU Classic, led to a successful outdoor season as well. Coming off wins in the 800 at the 91st Kansas Relays and the National Relay Championships, Hoppel went into the Big 12 Outdoor Championships hoping to sweep the conference 800 titles, but came up short, finishing fourth against league competition.
Following the conference meet, Hoppel found his groove and recorded a personal best in the semifinals at the NCAA West Preliminary Round, clocking in at 1:47.93 to finish second in his heat and earn an auto-qualifying bid to the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
In Eugene, Hoppel left it all on the track, running a blazing 1:46.90 in the prelims of the 800, which at the time was the No. 8 performance on the KU all-time charts—but he wasn’t done there. Hoppel lit up the track in the finals with a time of 1:45.67 to a fourth-place finish to earn another First Team All-America nod. Not only was it good for All-America honors, but the time proved to be the fastest 800-meter ran in the history of Kansas track & field, and sits second on the KU all-time list behind Jayhawk legend Jim Ryun’s converted 880-yard time of 1:44.3 set at the USTFF Outdoor Championships in 1966.
So, could his 2019 start lead to similar results as 2018? He certainly hopes so.
“It feels great to get rolling back into the track season,” Hoppel said, a day removed from his junior year debut. “This year I’m anticipating a lot of special opportunities and I couldn’t imagine going for anything less than the win; whether it’s the first couple of meets or the National Championship.”
Hoppel’s event coach Michael Whittlesey was pleased with the junior’s performances at the Triangular, but knows there’s a lot left in the tank.
“Bryce did a great job of competing yesterday,” Whittlesey said. “He ran two races in a little over an hour and our plan was for him to stay relaxed and stay in the rhythm of the race early and take it late. In the 800 we were hoping someone would push the pace a little and let him work off that but he took the lead and no one challenged him until late, so we didn’t really put out a fast time. We have been putting in a lot of work and he is in great shape at this time of the year.
“We will be looking to run a fast 800 at (the) Texas Tech (Open; Feb. 1-2) and then later at (the) ISU (Classic; Feb. 8-9). There will be great competition at both meets so we are excited about those two opportunities.”
Even with the success in his races, the highlight of Hoppel’s night came after the final event had finished and he and his teammates gathered in the middle of the track to hoist the KU-KSU-WSU Triangular traveling winner’s plaque and sing the Alma Mater and Rock Chalk chant.
“It’s always exciting to get the individual wins,” Hoppel said. “But the best part of the night was definitely celebrating in the middle with the team for something we all contributed towards.”
Hail to thee, our Alma Mater
Hail to Old KU!
— Kansas Track & Field (@KUTrack) January 19, 2019
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