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Facing elite competition motivates Eagles, Lady Eagles


Taylor Hopper is hearing about the personal records of some of the sprinters from the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas and is curious what they might mean to her PR.

The Nixa freshman entered the Class 5 State Track Meet hoping the elite competition will bring out the best in her in the 100, 400 and 4 x 400 relay.

“It’s going to be pretty crazy. Around here, there’s good competition. But around St. Louis and Kansas City, they’e got some really good athletes,” Hopper said. “It’s going to be a bunch of good athletes. I’m excited to be in that atmosphere and amongst a bunch of great athletes. I want to see where I fit in or if I have a chance.

“When I’m around faster people, I tend to get faster,” she added. “It’s going to be (interesting) to see my own ability amongst great athletes who are faster and stronger than me.”

Hopper already owned Nixa’s school record in the 100, having been clocked in 12.42 at Sectionals.

She is among a handful of Class 5 freshmen sprinters who made it to State. Hopper anticipates the fellow freshmen will spur her progress in the future.

“We’re a good class. It puts me in position to continue to get better because I’m going to be going my whole high school with them,” she said. “I’ll keep competing and showing them what I’ve got and see what they have to bring.”

Graham makes comeback from injury.

Koby Graham went to State not expecting a back injury that hounded him for a month to be a factor in his quest for a medal in the javelin.

Graham tweaked his back during a practice following the Southwest Baptist Invite in April. But he felt as strong as ever leading up to State.

“I went to get treatment by a chiropractor and kept it light throwing during practices so I wouldn’t trigger (anything),” Graham said prior to State. “I’m back to feeling great. No pain, My back is feeling 100 percent. I’m anxious to go out and launch one.”

Graham was also mindful not to put too much pressure on himself mentally.

“My goal is to get between 57-60 meters,” he said. “If I can greater than 60, I’m going to be happy. My goal is to just dial in and launch one.”

This was his second trip to State and he wanted it to go better than his first.

“I’ve been shaking this whole week, with State coming up,” he said. “I’m super pumped. I’ve been there before. It did not go well. I’m looking for redemption.”

Breakthrough year for Figueroa

Camilia Figueroa made a return trip to State, but this was her first qualification in the 300 hurdles. Her progress this season saw her post a PR of 48.0 prior to State.

She points to cross country as being pivotal in her track success.

“I was hoping cross country would make me mentally stronger so I could finish races as hard as I could. That’s what has happened,” Figueroa said. “It’s been about being comfortable with being uncomfortable. (The 300 hurdles) feels probably like the closest to death you can get. It’s like pushing your body past that point.

“I love (the event) when I’m not running it,” she added. “As soon as I’m done running it, I love it. I love practicing for it. But running it, is tough. You can’t do it if you’re mentally weak.”

Figueroa anticipated her start to dictate plenty.

“I want to start out at the right pace,” she said. “If I start out too fast, I’m going to burn out. I want to start out at a good pace and save myself for the end so I can kick it at the end.”

Figueroa had her eye set on the school record of 47.1

“I want to make it to the second day for the finals and I really want the school record,” she said. “They kind of correlate. Most likely, if I get the school record, I’ll make it to the finals. I’m excited to watch all the good people there. I hope it inspires me to do well.”