Schoppe’s greatest prize is now his most endearing
LA PORTE - Nothing he has accomplished in his opening two years of high school athletics has surprised anyone.
In two sports, he’s already made four trips to a Class 6A state championship event and not once was his teammates or his opponents surprised at what he’s been able to pull off in just 24 months of his high school career.
Last Saturday at the state track and field meet, Ryan Schoppe bucked that trend of non-surprising accomplishments and yet it came amidst his greatest accomplishment.
When there should have been and could have been a hotly-contested race to the finish line, the La Porte High School distance runner just dominated the 3200-meter state championship run at Mike Meyers Stadium in Austin.
His 9:09 time showed him with a four-and-a-half second victory over the silver medalist but that doesn’t do justice to how much Schoppe owned the biggest race of the season.
The gap between the Bulldog and the rest of the state’s best 3200-meter runners was unbelievable. The individual filming the race from the side view was unable to get both Schoppe and the rest of the runners on the same screen.
“I thought I had a chance to win the race from the beginning because everybody’s times were close together. I thought it was going to be a closer race. I didn’t think I would be able to kind of walk across the finish line. I was pretty excited when I won,” said Schoppe Thursday afternoon.
Yeah and in so doing, Schoppe ended a 15-year La Porte High School state championship track and field drought. Hurdler Kerron Clement, who went on to win the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was La Porte’s last state champion in 2003.
For Bulldogs coach Zachary Johnson, he now can say he has coached a state champion, something only a handful of coaches can boast of.
“Thinking back on it, it was a little unconventional. It went out kind of slow. It went out in a 4:42. He just sat comfortably and kind of took over. He went from running 71s (seconds) to 67 and nobody went with him. For me personally, I’m sitting there on the top row with his family, I moved down to the rail and I’m pacing back and forth. I started to get nervous. Are they going to go with him? He kept dropping his time with every lap which is what he tends to do,” La Porte coach Zachary Johnson said.
To answer Johnson’s question, no they didn’t.
“I was kind of boxed in for like the first three laps. Towards the end of the fourth lap, there was a little gap in between this kid and the rail. So I just kind of weaved my way through, broke away and nobody went with me. I thought they would go with me,” Schoppe said.
Videotape of the race shows Schoppe suddenly shooting out of the pack as the group reaches the conclusion to the fourth lap and four to go. For the last 1600 meters, he was never tested.
Among those he defeated was the cross country state champion.
“I didn’t look back until the seventh lap. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what they were doing back there,” Schoppe said.
En route to the state crown, Schoppe broke the 3200-meter school record four times. His stampede to the coveted title started in Pasadena at Allan Brown Stadium on April 4 for the 22-6A meet. He was clocked at 9:17.46, a full 33 seconds faster than the runner-up winner.
But the fact that he dropped his time eight seconds between his Pasadena stop and his Austin stop, speaks volumes about how badly Schoppe wanted to go get the state crown.
“We do a lot of core stuff here, but we can’t do everything here. It’s what I’m trying to get across to the rest of my guys. We’ve had a lot of really good runners, but what makes him different is not ability. Put him in a 400 and he’ll lose. It’s the work ethic to do the extra things.
“He goes to bed at 9 o’clock every night, he doesn’t party a whole lot. At least up to now, he’s been willing to make that sacrifice, knowing there’s something greater in the track area and a lot of guys don’t. You gotta say no to your friends who want to play football on the weekends and risk getting hurt. He’s willing to make that sacrifice. He makes more sacrifices than most and now he’s a state champion,” Johnson said.
Now that he’s the best Class 6A 3200-meter runner in the Lone Star State, Schoppe’s appreciation for all those who helped him along the way has grown appreciably. From Mom and Dad driving him to the Rio Grande Valley for meets to the numerous others, they’ve all played a part to his reaching the mountaintop.
That includes the youth summer track program and his trips to Texas City for some big TAAF meet.
“Summer track really did help me along. I think it’s made me a better runner physically and mentally. It’s nothing to run in the heat anymore. I don’t mind it at all,” Schoppe said.
“I think summer track is big for him and big for anybody who does it,” Johnson said.
Schoppe’s victory was also a moment for District 22-6A’s track and field scene to celebrate.
“Our whole region was cheering him on. The way he won it impressed more people than anything. There’s comaradie amongst athletes and coaches that you don’t see in any other sport. It makes you feel pretty good about what you do, the things that teaches the kids,” Johnson said.