Wolverines take on Tokyo


Attacker Johnny Hooper ’16 drives against an opponent and looks to score during the Wolverine’s first game of the season.

Charlie Seymour

Four athletes from the school community competed in three different sports and represented three separate nations in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Ali Riley ’06 captained the New Zealand womens soccer team, Johnny Hooper ’15 and Ben Hallock ’16 competed on the U.S. mens water polo team and middle school 

Track and Field and Cross Country Coach Gianna Woodruff ran for Panama in the 400-meter hurdles.

Making her fourth appearance in the Olympics, Riley led the New Zealand womens soccer team to 12th place overall, losing to the U.S., Sweden and Japan. After graduating, Riley captained the Stanford womens soccer team, leading them to two NCAA semifinals and one NCAA final. 

Although New Zealand’s team failed to win a medal, current school soccer player Alyssa Thompson ’23 said watching an athlete from the school community compete on an international stage motivated her to pursue higher levels of athletic competition.

“[Seeing Riley in Tokyo] has pushed me and showed me that it is possible [to reach the Olympics],” Thompson said. “I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics, and seeing people that have come from the same position as me helps me gain confidence in pursuing my goals.”

 Coach Woodruff represented Panama in the final of the 400-meter hurdle race in the track and field competition, placing seventh with a time of 55.84 seconds. She opted to compete in international competition in 2016 after running track for University of Washington, Seattle. 

Woodruff said her love for track and field has been a motivating factor throughout her career, and she hopes to emphasize enjoyment of the sport over competitive mentality as she continues coaching the middle school Track and Field Team. 

“I will always emphasize [making] sure that the kids I coach have fun with everything they do,” Woodruff said. “It is definitely serious when you are grinding and working hard but making sure you love what you do, [making] the most of it and always [having] fun are things that [have] stuck with me throughout my professional and Olympic career.” 

Wolverine water polo alumni Hooper and Hallock finished sixth with the U.S. mens water polo team, losing 14-11 to Croatia in the squad’s final match. They scored two goals each. 

The team finished with an overall record of 3-5 in the  Olympic Games. The teammates played together for three consecutive years, winning the 2013 and 2014 CIF Division I Southern Section Championship. 

Throughout his high school career, Hooper was a four-time All-American and the 2015 CIF Division I Player of the Year. At the University of California, Berkeley, Hooper graduated with the second most career goals scored in school history and won the 2016 NCAA Championship. 

Hooper said the bonds he developed with his teammates in Tokyo restored a feeling of normalcy while dealing with the unique circumstances of the games because of COVID-19. 

“It was great to [compete in Tokyo] with guys that I’ve been training with for five years and guys that I’ve known my entire life,” Hooper said. “The family aspect [of the team] was what made everything a little bit normal since our other families couldn’t [spectate the games].”

Although he left Tokyo without a medal, Hooper said he was proud of both the team’s performance and his own personal growth since playing for the school’s water polo team under the leadership of Boys Water Polo Program Head Brian Flacks.

“[Flacks] definitely prepared me to the best of my abilities for the next level, and even inherently for the national team’s level,” Hooper said. “There are foundational traits that you keep as you move forward onto the next level, and the discipline and work ethic [Flacks] taught me was definitely unparalleled at any level I’ve played at so far.”

Thompson said she agrees with this sentiment, because the resources offered by the school’s athletic department will ideally prepare her for a future professional soccer career.

“With the support you get from trainers and coaches, there is no surprise that so many amazing athletes come out of this school,” Thompson said. “I hope that I can be another one.” 

Reflecting on his journey from playing at the high school level to competing at the Olympics, Hooper said his years of competing professionally taught him universally applicable lessons.

 Hooper said these lessons are necessary in order to maintain a stable life in general, both in academics and athletics.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, but don’t take anything for granted,” Hooper said. “As you’re competing, be a balanced student-athlete, take care of the guys around you and treat [them] as family. Don’t just compete one thousand percent for sports and not compete in the classroom, because being balanced is the most important thing as a human being.”