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A look into the life of David Hopton, Mohawk College’s cross-country coach

Mohawk College’s cross-country coach, David Hopton, was named CCAA Cross-Country Running Coach of the Year in 2023.   

Outside of the college, Hopton coaches athletes on the Hammerheads and Koalas triathlon team based in Burlington.  

“Being a coach is inspiring,” Hopton said. “Getting to work with other highly-motivated athletes and athletes with big goals, I think that’s the best part.”  

Hopton started coaching part-time while studying Kinesiology at McMaster and this year marks his tenth year.  

He started training as a triathlete as a young boy after being inspired by watching the Olympics.   

“When I was around 13, I stopped doing other sports and just specialized in triathlon,” Hopton said. “And I’d say since 2005, triathlon’s been a pretty big part of my life.”  

Coaching athletes during runs is one way Hopton supports his clients, but he also takes an individual approach.  

Two cross-country athletes and one coach [Hopton on the right] standing together.
Hopton (r) stopped participating in triathlons so he could transition into his role as a coach.
“I coach people who live outside of the city and that I don’t see that often and I’m just kind of giving them a training program,” Hopton said.  

Mathew Reid, owner of the Hammerheads and Koalas, hired Hopton in 2014.   

“David coaches the two-time reigning woman Ontario elite champion [Ava Snyder],” Reid said.  “And he also coaches the reigning junior elite provincial champion for the men’s division [Sage Sulentic].”  

Reid said the feedback he has received from Hopton’s athletes reflects how he is as a coach.   

“He’s a very hard-working coach, he cares about his athletes and he’s passionate about the sport,” Reid said.   

Hammerhead and Koalas triathlete Ava Snyder said Hopton is very detail-oriented and makes sure he does research before planning.   

“He’s very good at making individualized plans for people,” Snyder said. “He doesn’t just assume what you can do.”  

Mohawk College cross-country team captain Brooklyn Skoog said Hopton took a chance on her when she tried out for the cross-country team in 2021 as someone new to running.   

“I was really on the cusp of not making the team,” Skoog said. “I ended up being the captain of the team next year and really improved.” 

Coach David Hopton smiling at one of his athletes.
Hopton trains his athletes year-round with short breaks in between.

Skoog said having a coach like Hopton makes runners want to work harder for their team.  

“He just genuinely cares so much and puts his heart and soul into everything,” Skoog said. “Whether you’re the best on the team or the worst on the team, he treats you the same, no matter what.”  

Hopton works year-round to prepare his athletes for events. His schedule includes coaching in the evenings and on weekends, leading a master swim group a couple of mornings each week and creating personalized programs for athletes.   

Hopton has been an athlete since he was a child, but he said he doesn’t think of the word discipline that often.  

“There was a year in grade 10 where I had 5:30 a.m. swim practice four days a week,” Hopton said. “That was probably the biggest grind, but you do it because you enjoy it.”  

Triathletes often have races from February to November. It is common for them to compete outside of the country.  

“I’ve got an athlete going to Cuba at the end of February and then I might have another athlete going to Miami in March,” Hopton said.   

Although athletes are traveling for competitions, there is still some time to get to know the country they are visiting.    

“You have to go for runs anyways so it’s a really nice way to explore new places,” Hopton said. “I can think of a lot of runs like I’ve done in the UK, Scotland and England that have been pretty memorable.”  

Hopton said he would like to be a coach for his whole working career.  

“I would definitely like to build a bit of a dynasty at Mohawk,” Hopton said. “We’ve had a lot of success in the three years I’ve been here, and I’d like to keep that going.”  

Hopton continues to train the cross-country team every Saturday, rain or shine. The team races Provincials at the end of October and Nationals two weeks later. 

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