Josh Hopkins had plans last summer.
A senior at Lutheran North, Hopkins was the returning starting quarterback for a football team with state championship aspirations and the elite talent to make it a reality.
Hopkins made it two games before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
“It's definitely been hard, especially going through an injury,” he said.
Unable to play, Hopkins could only watch as Lutheran North powered its way back to the Class 2 semifinals, where it was then beaten by eventual state champion Blair Oaks.
At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Hopkins was going to spend the winter on the basketball court. He made it two games before his shoulder became troublesome again. He shut it down once again.
Hopkins has one last chance to chase down the state championship that has eluded him. He'll compete in the long jump, triple jump, 200-meter dash and on the Crusaders' 800-meter relay at the Class 3 state championship track and field meet Friday and Saturday at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
He has set high expectations for himself.
“I want first in everything,” he said. “I'm going all out for it.”
Hopkins knows what it'll take to be successful. He qualified for the state meet last year and took second in the long jump. He was 13th in the triple jump. As he prepares this week, Hopkins has done what he can to mimic the intensity of what he'll see Friday and Saturday.
“You have to practice how you want to perform,” Hopkins said. “I'm practicing at the rate I want to perform at the meet.”
He's practicing for more events than ever at state. This was the first season he's competed in the 200. He took fourth at the sectional meet, the last state qualifying spot, when he finished in a personal best time of 21.82 seconds. Hopkins didn't plan on running the open 200, but Lutheran North's coaching staff wanted him to find another event to focus on this season. They offered him the 100, 200 or the 110-meter hurdles or the 300-meter hurdles. Hopkins had no interest in the hurdles and he'd never run the 100, which is the most unforgiving race on the track, especially for those athletes who are brand new.
He settled on the 200 because he'd run on the Crusaders' 800 relay before and he was comfortable with the distance.
“I went with what was close to what I knew how to do,” he said.
It's turned out to be an excellent choice. Hopkins has the fifth-fastest seed time headed into Friday's preliminary races. Should he live up to his seeding he'll qualify for Saturday's final. There is a good opportunity for Hopkins to earn all-state recognition in all three of his individual events. Lutheran North's 800 relay is seeded fourth and is expected to be in the mix in the finals on Saturday.
After a senior year where everything went sideways, Hopkins hopes he can end this season on a positive note. Then again, Hopkins is a pretty positive guy despite all the adversity he's dealt with this year. He tries not to worry about things he can't control.
“It was definitely frustrating at the beginning but I put it in God's hands. It's part of his plan,” Hopkins said. “I tend to look on the brighter side of things.”
This article was originally published on stltoday.com