High school teammates reunite for 600 success

A pair of Eden Prairie High School grads are teaming up again in the 600-meter run.

by Kent Erdahl

Minnesota women’s track team members Melissa Steele and Mollie Hupp could be compared to two trains from a classic math problem.

Train A (Steele) left Eden Prairie, Minn. and took a direct route to the University. Train B (Hupp) also left Eden Prairie but took a detour through St. Thomas before meeting up with train A at the University.

Now Steele and Hupp, who ran together at Eden Prairie High School, run side-by-side on the same track, pacing each other in the 600-meter run for the Gophers track and field team.

But there’s more to the equation than a simple detour.

All in the family

Melissa Steele received a lot of attention in high school alongside brother Adam, who left for the University after he graduated in 2000.

“They’ve always kind of been up on this pedestal,” Hupp said. “Even my friends who weren’t in track knew who they were.”

After graduating in 2001, Melissa Steele also found herself being pursued by Minnesota, and she decided to follow her brother.

In her time with the Gophers, the junior has witnessed Adam Steele become one of the top runners in the nation. He won the national championship in the 400-meter run at the 2003 outdoor championships.

“Obviously he’s a good role model,” Melissa Steele said. “He’s always encouraging me and coaching me on the side.”

While Adam Steele has enjoyed most of the attention and recognition, his sister has become one of the top performers and leaders of a young women’s team.

“She’s quiet, does her job and really leads by example,” coach Gary Wilson said. “She’s just a great kid.”

The scenic route

Hupp was another promising potential-Division I runner for Eden Prairie when she graduated in 2002, and Minnesota’s coaching staff took notice.

“I recruited her to come as a freshman, and it looked like a good fit,” Wilson said. “But she said (the University) was just a little too big.”

Instead, Hupp chose to run for St. Thomas her first year.

The decision paid off when Hupp became a Division III All-American as a freshman and broke a 20-year-old St. Thomas record in the 800-meter run.

But following the season, Hupp decided to transfer to the University after being admitted to the school’s nursing program.

Although she knew she was ready, the sophomore has noticed the differences in jumping to a Division I program.

“Division III is a lot less intense,” Hupp said. “The training here is a lot tougher.”

Together again

Hupp, Melissa Steele and senior Rachel Schutz have made the 600-meter run one of Minnesota’s strongest events coming into this weekend’s Big Ten Indoor Championships in Iowa City, Iowa.

Although all three have been together for less than a year, the connection between Hupp and Melissa Steele has made a difference.

“She’s really helped me figure things out,” Hupp said of Melissa Steele. “I ask a lot of questions.”

Melissa Steele agreed that having a history has definitely made a difference.

“It’s always nice to have a familiar background,” she said. “We understand the same coaching styles.”

Now the two trains hope this chemistry equates to substantial team points for Minnesota in the 600-meter run at the Big Tens.