Another successful season came to an end for Rachel Hamel, and the state championship season bookended a successful career for the Lady Bronco.
In Hamel’s four-year career at Mustang, the hurdler took home three gold medals from the state track meet.
During the state meet in her sophomore season, Hamel won the title in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles.
“I think it was towards the end of my freshman year and then my sophomore year before I realized, ‘Ok, I’m kind of good at this.’ It took me a little while to learn where I was in the state, and I don’t know why,” Hamel said.
The next season it was expected that Hamel would sweep the races, but Southmoore’s Analya Miller had other ideas.
Miller defeated Hamel by two-hundredths of a second in the 100-meter hurdles event even with Hamel running her personal best time of 14.51. She took fourth place in the 300-meter event as a junior.
“It was very difficult, definitely coming off winning the year before. Nobody likes losing, regardless, but especially right after the year before I had won. It was a tough pill to swallow,” Hamel said. “But at the same time, if I didn’t have her running next to me, I wouldn’t have run as fast as I did. It was really tough to lose, especially by a race that close. But in the end, my time got faster. I got to grow from that.”
Between Hamel’s junior and senior season, she signed to run track at the University of Tulsa.
“I knew college athletics was something that I had been wanting to shoot for and aim for. That has kept me pushing,” Hamel said.
She used the feel of defeat as fuel to prepare for her senior season as a Lady Bronco.
“Winning is great, and the feeling of winning is great, but it hurts worse to lose,” Hamel said. “That just kind of kept pushing me. From day one of offseason, I knew that was the goal and something I had to be in pursuit of for the whole season.”
Her senior season was threatened by injuries from a near stress fracture in her foot to a tweaked hamstring.
She fought through the pains throughout the season and got her body ready for the season’s final race.
During preparation, Hamel had the chance to line up and practice against one of the top-five hurdlers in Oklahoma in teammate Trinity Picklo.
“Trinity is great. She is a great teammate, and I have enjoyed running with her the last two years,” Hamel said. “Having someone to push you is a great thing. It is an asset to have someone there to push you. Being able to develop a friendship through our training is great. She is a great athlete and being able to work with her has been really fun.”
Picklo had a top-five finish in the 100-meter hurdle race in 2018 as a freshman.
Because of the foot problem, Hamel had to be in a boot, which made getting practice reps difficult.
Hamel walked around school all day in a boot, then would go to practice where Coach Mike McGarry would tell her to take the boot off to get a few reps before putting the boot back on in time to head to work.
“I don’t have stress fractures, but the doctors believed that it was potentially going to be a stress fracture. That was something I would have to work around,” Hamel said.
But because the few reps she was able to complete were productive and challenging, she was prepared for the state meet.
When the meet finally arrived, there were two familiar faces on the track— teammate Picklo and Southmoore’s Miller.
This go-around Hamel edged Miller and brought the gold medal back to Mustang with a .2 second victory.
“It was really exciting. It was a fun moment,” Hamel said. “All of this just builds up leading up to it and then in just over 14 seconds, it’s over. It was worth it. All of the discipline, the effort put into it all ended up going how I wanted it. It was just a rush of emotions,” Hamel said.
Hamel walked across the stage Friday as a three-time state champion and will now move on to Tulsa where she hopes to become a nurse.
“I feel like it is a place I can make home. Not only challenge myself athletically but also challenge myself academically,” Hamel said.