Cole Hocker is in a group of his own.
Just in his freshman year alone at Oregon, he won two NCAA indoor championships and the outdoor 1,500 meters in June.
He then followed up his performance and won the 1,500 meters in the Olympic Trials and is the youngest to represent the United States in an Olympic track event since 1968.
Adding to his list of accolades, the NCAA champion is one of three finalists for the Bowerman Award, the equivalent of winning the Heisman Trophy.
Hocker has just finished his sophomore season and is looking to become one of the better runners in not only collegiate track but the world.
“There’s some pressure for sure,” Hocker told SI on representing his country. “There’s pressure from myself on myself. Now there’s that pressure that comes with representing the United States since there’s only three of us. I did win the trials so there might be a little bit of a higher expectation but I think doing my best should be enough.”
The junior credits part of his success to teammate Cooper Teare. In his own right, Teare holds the collegiate record for fastest 5000 meters. Which set this past season.
Both have emerged as the staples of Oregon’s track team and hold each other accountable to get better.
“I think my biggest thing was having Cooper Teare to train with,” Hocker says. “I saw him at the top of his game and the top of the NCAA. I knew if I hung with him in workouts then that’s an immediate path to the top of the NCAA. I was able to do just that.”
Part of the back and forth is what Hocker uses to stay ready for the Olympic stage. Although the new and rare experience could be nerve-wracking to any young athlete, he’s been taking it in stride. Winning a championship isn’t foreign to him and neither is preparation.
“Of course this is the biggest stage in the sport,” Hocker says. “In my head I’ve compared it to—and this might sound silly—I had never been to NCAA indoor championships. I went there and was able to win two titles. I had never been to an outdoor NCAA championship and I was able to win the 1,500. I had never been to the U.S. trials and I was able to win the race there. I’m sort of looking at it like that. I’ve never been to the Olympics but I’ve been able to execute on stages I’ve never been to before and I think this should be the same way.”
Confidence isn’t lacking by Hocker. A quality needed at such a unique stage like the Olympics. He’s made a name for himself around the country. Now he has a chance to do it globally.
Hocker's quest for the gold in the 1500m kicks off on Tuesday, August 3.