Log in

Lady Eagles District 200 champion Hopper values presence of Joplin rival


Nixa’s Taylor Hopper is enjoying her friendly rivalry with Joplin’s Brylee Strickland that could stretch over four weeks.

Hopper and Strickland have raced against each other the past two weekends during the COC Championships and the Class 5 District 6 Meet. They will see each other again this weekend for Sectionals and possibly once more the following weekend at State.

Before and after their face-offs in the 100, 200 and 400, Hopper often exchanges cordial rapport with Strickland and other sprinters. They usually find reassurance upon discovering how much they have in common, particularly in regard to the demands of training.

“I think they're a bunch of great girls,” Hopper said. “We sit and laugh and say, 'Let's all tie, we don't want to do this.' At the end of the day, I'm thankful to have a bunch of great competitors around me to keep pushing me.

“It’s comforting to know we're all in the same boat,” she added. “Maybe if we're having a mentally rough day, it's comforting to know a girl who is even better than me is having troubles, too.”

Hopper and Strickland took turns exchanging spots while finishing 1-2 in the 100, 200 and 400 at Districts.

Hopper won the 200 in 25.29, while Strickland was second in 25.45.

Strickland won the 100 with a 12.29, while Hopper turned in a 12.61 to place second.

Strickland also won the 400 with a 58.58, with Hopper runner-up in 1:00.43.

“I'm hoping to give her a little more of a run for her money,” Hopper said, looking ahead to the 100 and 400 at Sectionals. “In the 100 and 400, I didn't run my best times (at Districts). I'm trying to be more consistent in the 100.”

The 25.29 in the 200 is a PR for Hopper and also lowers her school record.

While many regular-season meets follow a rolling schedule, a specific schedule was in play for Districts. Hopper’s sprints were spaced apart by five hours. Even with Nixa serving as the District host, Hopper didn’t venture home in between races, preferring to stay at the track and cheer on her teammates.

“I wanted to stay,” she said. “We have such a close dynamic that I don't think any of us want to leave each other while we're competing for a spot in Sectionals. The day goes by so fast. I've just been sitting in the shade, getting my electrolytes in so I don't run out of gas.”

Per usual, Hopper ran with small, hoop earrings attached to her ears, although her mother wishes she wouldn’t.

“My Mom jokes with me, 'That's .10 off of your time,’” Hopper said. “Maybe I'll try not wearing them. But I don't think they affect anything. I can't even notice them when I’m running. These are really light. I have a pair of heavy ones, but never wear them because I feel they would drop me low to the ground.”

Looking ahead, Hopper has her sights set in the 200 on breaking into the 24s.

“I’m shooting for 24.9,” she said. “I have a shot at State to medal. I'm so hungry for that and want it so badly.”