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Managing College and the Olympic Dream

The story of how Maine track-and-field star, Kate Hall, was able to manage the transition into college while training for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

The transition into college is never an easy one. For the typical teenager, college life means the first step to independence with new opportunities around every corner. However, many first-year students find themselves struggling to balance everything that college has to offer. And when you have to balance participation in a Division I sport, this transition is often more difficult. Many athletes are unable to successfully manage practices, meets, lifts, and team activities along with the responsibilities of being a full-time student.


But this is not one of those stories.


Kate Hall has not only managed to successfully adjust to life in a large Division I university, but has dreams that reach far beyond the classroom. This past June, Hall broke the national high school meet record in the long jump, with a mark that qualified her for this year’s Olympic Trials. And Hall has kept this dream alive despite her recent transition from being homeschooled in a small Maine town to studying at Iowa State University.


Hall has never been one to back down from a challenge. But the pressures of being a student-athlete at a Division I Institution might be more than she can handle. And balancing an Olympic dream while majoring in Kinesiology is no easy task. Thus with the Olympic Trials right around the corner, Kate Hall must maintain her focus not only on the track but in the classroom as well.  


Kate Hall is not your typical teenager. Currently a freshman at Iowa State, Hall has quickly become a woman to watch in the track-and-field world. Born and raised in Casco, Maine, the 19-year-old sprinter and jumper is one of the most decorated high school athletes in the state of Maine, with 26 state titles. As a high school senior, Hall jumped her way into the Olympic Trials when she broke a 39-year-old high school record in the long jump at the New Balance National Championships- a jump that ranked her amongst the top ten female long jumpers in the world.


With a record-breaking senior season under her belt, Hall had an important decision to make: Which university would she call her home for the next four years? With the Trials only a year away, Hall wanted to find an athletic program that would help her earn a spot on the Olympic Team, but also needed to find an institution that would push her academically as well. After touring various Division I schools, Hall decided on Iowa State.


“Everywhere else had one big negative, [but] not Iowa,” Kate reflected.


One deciding factor in Hall’s choice was that the coach at Iowa State promised to keep her local trainer, Chris Pribish, involved with her training as much as possible. Pribish, the founder of South Portland’s Medically Oriented Gym, began training Hall after she pulled her hamstring in the eighth grade. However Pribish saw Hall’s potential early, using strength training to accelerate her explosive power and speed. Due to his vision and execution in training, Pribish quickly became a mentor to Hall, eventually becoming her inspiration to declare a major in Kinesiology.


Even though Hall felt that Iowa State was the best fit for her both academically and athletically, many freshmen naturally find themselves nervous about the transition to college life. And life at this Division I university is the polar opposite of the life Hall knew growing up in Casco, Maine. Iowa State is a public university located approximately 1,453 miles away from her hometown with an enrollment of about 35,000 students.


Eric Hall, Kate’s father and coach, found himself anxious about sending his daughter off to a college so far from home. Especially since she suffers from both Type 1 diabetes and Celiac Disease.


“It’s scary,” Eric Hall states, “ [as a parent] it’s hard to let go.”


However, Hall found her transition to be a little bit easier than she had expected. Although she was homeschooled throughout high school, Hall managed to take a handful of college classes during her junior and senior year, which were all transferable to Iowa State. With these extra credits under her belt, Hall only needs to take 12 credits per semester instead of the usual 16, thus allowing her the time to successfully balance her track season with her academics.


The most difficult part about her college transition was her adjustment to Division I Athletics. Although she enjoyed training with her team, practices typically lasted from three to four hours a day, seven days a week. With no days off, Hall had to maintain her structured work ethic in order to get everything done on the track and in the classroom. According to former high school competitor, Alex Gutierrez, it was Hall’s composure that made her such a force to be reckoned with. “She has the best attitude even when things aren’t going her way,” Gutierrez states, “and this is what makes her such an elite athlete.”


As a result of her constant efforts in these long college practices, Hall has continued to break records in her first season at Iowa State. In her collegiate home opener at the Big Four Duals, Hall won the 60-meter dash in 7.30 seconds, which was the second fastest time in Iowa State history. The freshmen impressed crowds throughout the season and qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in both the 60-meter dash and the long jump.


However, Hall chose to focus her efforts on the long jump with the goal of earning a national title. Despite being seeded fourth prior to the event, Hall only jumped 20-01 feet, a mark two feet shorter than the jump that qualified her for the Olympic Trials.


“I was feeling tired,” Hall remarked, “but I still wanted to go and do well.”


Maybe the result of pre-competition nerves or from being overwhelmed athletically and academically, Hall’s performance left more to be desired. Her goal of becoming a member of the 2016 United States Olympic Team is still an attainable one, and Hall is putting all of her efforts into focusing on her Olympic dream. She has decided to redshirt her outdoor season at Iowa State in order to train with Pribish in anticipation of the trials this July. The freshman also recently made another difficult decision when it comes to her college career with the move to transfer from Iowa State to the University of Georgia.


Although she will finish the year at Iowa, Hall looks forward to competing for the Bulldogs this fall. According to the Portland Press Herald, Hall’s decision comes from a disappointment in the coaching style at Iowa State. Throughout the season Hall didn’t feel physically recovered and did not want to return to the same training she received during her indoor season. But a new head coach at the University of Georgia has guaranteed Hall the training that she deserves, and she sees herself thriving there. 


With the work ethic Hall has shown throughout her athletic and academic career, it seems that she will once again be able to easily transition to college life at Georgia. For Kate Hall has never been considered your typical teenager. Instead of returning to her summer job at the Ice Cream Dugout in North Windham, Hall will be gaining national attention as one of the youngest qualifiers for this summer’s Olympic Trials.


But Hall believes that her experience at Iowa State has helped prepare her for the competition that lies ahead. During her indoor season, Hall competed against Olympic Gold Medalist Brittney Reese, a long jumper who will most likely once again be competition for Hall during the Trials. However, Hall doesn’t seem to be too worried.


“I look up to her. But now I know I can jump with the best.”

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