"My mom and dad asked if I wanted to run with them, and I was like, 'Sure,'" Hempel said. "I've always been ready to try anything.
"If I have something else going on, they don't pressure me at all. They tell me I don't have to run if I don't want to. But sometimes they try to get me out running with them at 5:50 in the morning and I'm not up for that. I'm like, 'No way.'"
Hempel gets plenty of running in, between soccer practice and the cross country practices he can get to.
"I run the (cross country) course sometimes, but I also get workouts in at soccer," Hempel said. "It's good because I get my speed work in there."
Goal is to go under 18 minutes
Hempel finished in 18 minutes, 37 seconds for 3.1 miles in the Boyle County Invitational last week, and an 18:51 in the Constitution 5K. He said his individual goal for the year is to get under 18 minutes.
McKinney said Hempel almost invites his own set of rules when judging his times.
"It's hard to say with Ross. He doesn't practice a lot, because of soccer," McKinney said. "If we were judging almost any other kid, you've be very, very excited with his times with almost no training. He's an extremely talented runner. We're obviously pleased with it, but the expectations have been high for Ross, because he's been good for so long."
Hempel is the oldest of three boys (Byron is 12, Karl 11) in his family, and said Karl will also be very good if he continues to improve. Byron focuses more on swimming than running, but the entire family gets out for some of the area road races.
McKinney said Ross Hempel has found a way to mix his talent with the necessary love for the sport that it takes to excel.
"He has the physical ability to be good, but he's got to enjoy it, and I think he does," McKinney said. "If you're a runner, you love it. It's a part of who you are. They're all good runners, and they love it. It takes both things, the ability and the love. Ross does a good job of balancing it out."