Hoppel wins 800-meter title, current KU athletes place well at USATF Outdoor Championships

Bryce Hoppel wins the men's 800 meters final during the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, July 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

It wasn’t pretty, but Bryce Hoppel did it again.

The former Kansas athlete and current professional middle-distance runner overcame a physical race that saw athletes jockeying for position along the track, winning the 800 meters for the second year in a row Sunday at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

As noted by Jonathan Gault of LetsRun.com, just once in the last two decades has a runner won with a time slower than Hoppel’s. He persisted despite the pushing and shoving to cross the finish line first in 1:46.20, following up on his winning time of 1:44.60 at last year’s event.

Hoppel, a native of Midland, Texas, won two NCAA titles while at KU from 2016-19, and has since competed at the 2020 Olympics. He will be back in action in Budapest, Hungary, for the World Athletics Championships from Aug. 19-27. Hoppel will be looking to surpass last year’s performance, when he did not make it out of his first-round heat.

Bryce Hoppel reacts after winning the men’s 800 meters final during the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, July 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Several other current and former KU athletes competed in Eugene over the weekend. Current Jayhawk A.J. Green had advanced alongside Hoppel from heat No. 2 in the 800-meter preliminaries, which produced the three slowest qualifying times in the event. Hoppel’s 1:47.87 and Green’s 1:48.52 were still good enough to send them through to the semifinals the next day, where Green fell short of a finals berth by a 0.02-second margin. However, Hoppel posted what proved to the best overall time in the event by any athlete at 1:45.26, then followed that up with his effort in Sunday’s final to claim the national championship.

The best showing by a current Jayhawk came from high jumper Rylee Anderson, an outgoing fifth-year senior who medaled by equaling her personal best with a 1.86-meter jump on Friday but fell short of world champion Vashti Cunningham (1.91).

Vashti Cunningham, center, who won the gold medal for the women’s high jump, poses with silver medalist Rylee Anderson and bronze medalist Jenna Rogers, during a medal ceremony during the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Friday, July 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The other Kansas alum competing over the weekend, Honour Finley, who was last on the Jayhawks’ roster in 2022, raced unattached in the women’s 800 meters and bowed out in the first round at 24th with a time of 2:03.91.

Clayton Simms came in 11th in the men’s senior pole vault at 5.61 meters.

In under-20 championship action, freshman distance runner Sawyer Schmidt advanced past the prelims in the men’s 1,500 meters with an automatic bid, taking fourth place in his heat and ninth overall at 3:53.07. He then finished 11th in the final at 3:55.71.

Sprinter Jameir Colbert fell just short of advancing in the men’s U-20 400-meter hurdles, running the eighth-best time of nine qualifiers (52.97 seconds) but coming in fourth within his own strong heat.

Grant Lockwood completed the U-20 400 meters in 47.22, good for 11th.

Bryce Hoppel wins the men’s 800 meters final during the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, July 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

In other Lawrence-affiliated news, Free State grad Emily Venters represented Utah and finished seventh overall in the women’s 10,000 meters at 32:45.57.

Also over the weekend, KU’s Michael Joseph qualified to represent St. Lucia in the Olympics by earning a silver medal in the men’s 400 meters at the Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador, El Salvador, just behind Trinidad and Tobago’s national record holder Jereem Richards.

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