Casco phenom sprinter places fourth nationally

To top off a phenomenal track and field year, Kate Hall of Casco placed fourth in the 100 meters at the Nationals held in North Carolina over the weekend, earning her All-American status. The Lake Region junior also placed seventh in the long jump. (Rivet File Photo)

To top off a phenomenal track and field year, Kate Hall of Casco placed fourth in the 100 meters at the Nationals held in North Carolina over the weekend, earning her All-American status. The Lake Region junior also placed seventh in the long jump. (Rivet File Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Kate Hall admits she never thrived under pressure in other sports, but when she is on the track, pressure is her friend.

“Pressure pushes me to compete well. It’s become one of my favorite feelings after learning how to cope with it and not let it affect my performance in a negative way,” the now Lake Region High School junior said.

Kate may have felt nerves on the inside over the weekend, as she competed against the best track and field athletes from across the country at the New Balance Nationals held at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C., but she was cool under fire.

Kate is the fourth fastest sprinter in the nation in the 100 meters, earning her All-American status.

Kate closed out an unprecedented track season in these parts with a seventh place finish in the long jump.

In the prelims of the 100 meters, Kate posted a 11.81, which qualified her for the finals. Defending champ Ky Westbrook of Chandler, Ariz. turned in a time off 11.68. She sprinted to a 11.62 to capture the title. Kate was fourth at 11.74.

“The atmosphere at Nationals was very different from any of the other meets that I participated in this year. It was definitely more official looking; kind of like how it seems on TV during the Olympics, except without as many people watching in the stands,” she said. “The very first time I went to the track, I had the windows open and I could hear an announcer and music blasting before I could even see the stadium. Once the stadium came into view, all I could see was huge stands with lots of people and a big jumbotron that clearly displayed everything that was happening on the track.”

Outside of the track, there were several large tents that were crowded with people purchasing expensive track accessories. Also, music that was blasting outside of the track lured crowds, which enjoyed dancing along to it.

“Once I entered the stands for the first time, I knew that even just being there, watching all of the amazing athletes, would be a great experience for anyone to have. The atmosphere was slightly intimidating, although the feeling of being nervous about running in such a meet is one I’ve grown to love,” Kate said.

While heading to Nationals, Kate and her dad, Eric, discussed what her goals would be on the grandest track and field stage.

“I’ve learned recently that I expect a lot from myself. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s true. The goals that I had talked to my father about, going into the meet, were different from some of the goals that I had in mind and also kept to myself. I had decided before the meet that no matter what happened, I would be overjoyed with solely receiving the opportunity of being able to compete at a higher lever than I was used to,” Kate said. “From there, I set some other goals, just in case things went right. My dad and I decided that if I set a personal record in any of my events or close to one, then I would be happy. After all, the sport is really about improving upon your very best performances and mostly, bettering yourself as a person along the way and changing lives. Although I’m sure I would have been more than happy with achieving the goals that I had talked about with my father, I set some other ones, as well.”

Her biggest goal going into Nationals was qualifying for the 100-meter dash finals and receiving All-American status.

“I knew that in order to achieve that goal, I would have to run one of my fastest times ever and not break under the pressure,” she said. “As for long jump, I wanted to make it to the finals and maybe even achieve the All-American status in that event, as well.”

The 100 meters is Kate’s all-time favorite event. She loves the feeling of exploding out of the starting blocks and running as fast as she can for 11.5 seconds.

“At Nationals, I knew that everything in those eleven and a half seconds had to be perfect or else I would lose my chance of making it to the finals. The prelims were slightly intimidating as we all sat in a tent to find out which lanes we were going to run in. Everyone knew who was in their section before arriving, what their times were, and whom they needed to beat,” Kate said. “After winning my section in the prelims, I knew that I had achieved one of my biggest goals and was happy to just make it to the finals. Four hours later, eight girls were brought out on the track in a line and walked by an official to where the 100-meter dash starts. No one really talked to each other, which indicated they were all business.”

The moment Kate got into the starting blocks, all of her nerves went away as she took deep breaths and looked at the ground.

“It felt like I had one of the best block starts considering I thought I was ahead for a good 10 meters. A couple of girls passed me after 30 meters and I could tell I was losing my form,” she recalled. “The race was very, very close and I didn’t know what place I had come in until looking at the jumbotron. I was ecstatic that I had come in fourth place and achieved both of my goals for the 100-meter dash.”

Kate found it difficult to amp herself up for the long jump after capturing fourth in the 100 meter.

“But, as it got closer to the event, the more nervous I got. My warmups felt fast and explosive, which usually means I’ll have a good day,” she said.

In the long jump on Sunday, Kate advanced as a member of the group of eight with an 18-feet 8-inch effort in the prelims. She landed an 18-8 in the finals, placing her seventh overall.

Courtney Corrin of Playa Vista, Calif. won the long jump in 20-feet 7.25-inches. Keturah Orji of Budd Lake, N.J. was second at 20-6.25.

Four other girls also jumped 18-8, but Kate’s second best jump of 18-feet 4.75-inches allowed her to compete in the finals. Unfortunately, she was unable to crack the top 6 and earn All-American honors.

Lake Region varsity coach Mark Snow said Kate’s 18-8 is the second best effort by a Maine high school girl — behind Kate’s own 19-feet 0.75-inches recorded at New Englands last week.

“My first jump was behind the board by a foot, so going into my last two jumps I moved my mark up quite a bit and went for it. My second jump was still a few inches behind the board, but I jumped 18-8 and made it into finals by one spot. I didn’t jump farther than 18-8 in the finals and ended up placing seventh. Even though I didn’t set a personal record in the long jump, I was very happy with making finals and placing seventh at Nationals,” she said.

Facing elite athletes on the biggest stage was another major test for the decorated Maine high school champion.

“I admit, most of my competitors were a bit intimidating, as they usually are in these bigger meets. They were without a doubt there to win and only to win, especially for the 100-meter dash,” she said. “In contrast, I prefer getting to know my competitors and learning a little bit about their personalities and who they are as people and not just runners. Doing that relaxes me and enables me to enjoy this sport more than I ever thought possible. It’s always a great feeling when a competitor who I know outside of just ‘that fast girl’ achieves a goal, runs well, or wins.”

In the long jump, Kate was able “to experience some of that.”

“Most of the girls jumping were very friendly, outgoing and they definitely made the atmosphere more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone. Some of the girls who I competed against at the New England meet were cheering me on as I jumped and that inspired me to better myself,” Kate said. “I was very pleased with how most of my competitors conducted themselves as athletes and people. I’m already excited to experience that again next year.”

Competing at Nationals overall was one of Kate’s best experiences of her life. She couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome.

“Not counting the competing part, having some family time with my dad and brother is definitely something I always enjoy. We made the best out of traveling a total of 30 hours in the car and we even found a way to stay positive when we got lost for a couple hours,” she said.

As for running at Nationals, the atmosphere, the experience, the competitors and competing, itself, are some things Kate will never forget and looks forward to again in the future.

Looking back at a whirlwind season, during which she rewrote several Maine records and emerged as a dominant force on the track, Kate easily ranks 2012–13 “by far my favorite year out of all the years I’ve competed in sports throughout my life, although not because of everything that I achieved.”

“The first thing I think of when I think of the sport track and field is how much I truly enjoy it and the people involved in it. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for everyone’s love and support. I didn’t know how much I truly loved this sport until I found out how supportive my coaches, teammates, family, friends and competitors are,” she said. “Also, the community as a whole has played a huge role in inspiring me to do my best and becoming a better person.”

If she were asked to choose one moment that stood out or was most memorable this past year, Kate would “all of the people I got to know better; both my teammates and competitors.”

“This year, I’m most proud of my team. Everyone did phenomenal, both seasons; setting personal records all year and coming in second at the outdoor State Meet. That was a huge highlight of the year and that is something I’ll always remember,” she said. “Also, it’s taken some time to adapt to the pressure of the sport in general. I never thrived under pressure in other sports, although with track, the pressure pushes me to compete well. It’s become one of my favorite feelings after learning how to cope with it and not let it affect my performance in a negative way.”

She has also found herself constantly in the media limelight. Just as she displays a graceful glide down the track, Kate also has become a better public speaker, and now looks forward to speaking with reporters about her races.

“The pressure from the press is weird for me still. It’s weird to think that newspaper reporters from around Maine want to talk to me and ask about my performances, how I was feeling, etc. At first, I would get really nervous and obsess over not messing up, but now I enjoy talking to them and telling them what was going through my mind when I was doing my events,” she said.

How does one top a record-setting year? After some much deserved rest, Kate will resume workouts and prepare her next assault on the record books, which carries her name in the 100, 200 and long jump.

“I already can’t wait for next season. It’ll be nice to have a break for a while, but I know in no time I’ll be itching to get going again,” she said. “As for future goals, I’ll be planning on bettering my times and distances, placing better in bigger meets, and getting to know more people from the track world.”

 

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