Lake Region’s Kate Hall has been big news in Maine sports ever since she hit high school, four years ago, but now she’s bigger news than ever.

Hall is the newly-crowned National Long Jump Champion, and with college – and perhaps even bigger stages – still ahead of her, she shows no signs of slipping from the headlines anytime soon.

In recent weeks, Hall has picked up three more state titles (bringing her total to a perfect 12) as well as a pair of New England titles, in both the 55-meter and the Long Jump.

Those are, of course, major accomplishments. But in light of her performance this past weekend at the Armory in New York City, Hall’s earlier victories look almost like a prelude to the future – to the speeds and distances she hasn’t achieved yet, but undoubtedly will.

Hall took up track as a summer activity in Poland when she was just 10, but she was tentative going in.

“I was hesitant at first,” she says, “but after my first practice, I immediately loved it!”

Track is bit of a lucky find for Hall. She doesn’t come from a family of runners, so the sport was hardly a tradition, hardly an obvious choice. “No one in my family really did sports in college,” she says, “although my dad was fairly quick when he was younger.”

Other sports had actually grabbed Hall’s attention before track.

“I played soccer and basketball from a very young age. I was fairly good at both because of my speed, and before I started track I imagined myself playing one of those sports in college.”

In high school, however, she gave up both to concentrate on track.

And even though she looked good from the get-go, frequently winning events even as a newbie, it took her a couple years to thoroughly grasp her own potential.

“It wasn’t until middle school that I realized I could become pretty good if I put a lot of work in. Once I was in high school, I began getting better every year,” she said.

Hall’s dad, Eric, has been hugely influential on her athletic development, as has her trainer, Chris Pribish. “My dad is always trying to find new ways to better my performances, and always goes to my meets to help me and other athletes,” she says. “Chris has definitely shaped me into the athlete I am today. He’s the reason why I improve every year.”

Mark Snow is co-head coach (alongside Dana Caron) at Lake Region.

“I’ve coached track and field teams for over 20 years,” Snow says. “Kate has put more time into her training than any athlete I’ve coached.

“She’s meticulous in every aspect of training: strength, technique, diet. This attentiveness, dedication and her love for the sport has allowed Kate to become the best in the nation. She’s an outstanding example of how good someone can be if they devote an immense amount of quality time to their craft.”

This past weekend, at Nationals, Hall competed in both the 60-meter Dash and the Long Jump. She won her preliminary heat in the 60 (in 7.46 seconds), automatically advancing her to the semifinals the following day. In the semis, she took second (7.49), securing a spot in the finals. There, she finished sixth (7.46), and also set a new PR.

Hall is clearly an impressive physical specimen, and one who’s continuing to grow. Mentally, she’s also tough. Perhaps not unshakeable – not yet – but aware of her own mind and its workings.

“Nerves are definitely a positive thing for me,” she says, “as long as I can handle them in a relaxed way, if that makes any sense. There have been some circumstances where nerves have affected me so much that I have felt very shaky and dizzy. When this happens, my performance is definitely affected in a negative way.

“If I have nerves, but can still manage to concentrate on what I need to do and trust in my training, then I am always affected by them in a positive way. At Nationals, I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous, but I was able to handle the nerves in a trusting way that helped my performance.”

Similarly, Hall keeps an eye on the other athletes around her – and allows them to motivate her.

“Competition helps me run faster and jumper farther, so learning about my competitors and what they can do fires me up to perform well.”

And during an actual run, an actual jump, she’s able to put aside all concerns except the seconds ahead of her: “Nothing goes through my mind except what I need to do to jump and run well. For example, for long jump I’ll think of pushing out hard at the start, or running with my knees up. A lot of that has become instinct though, so I only need to remind myself of these things in the moment and just do what I do.”

Sixth in the country in the 60-meter Dash is a great result, but of course, Hall performed even better in the Long Jump. She was in the third preliminary flight, where her performance ushered her through to the finals. All three of her jumps, that round, broke 20 feet, but her second clocked in at 20-11.25 – a new facility record and the fourth best jump in U.S. high school girls’ history.

“I knew it was a good jump because of the reaction of my family,” she says. “They all started screaming and clapping, so I figured it must have been good. It wasn’t until they measured it that I knew that I had really jumped that far though.”

“I knew I had won when the girl before me jumped her last jump. I had won and I had one more jump left to go. It was such an amazing feeling, like no other. Becoming a national champ was my ultimate goal and I had achieved it. I was so overjoyed and couldn’t ask for anything more. I was in tears when I hugged my family!”

Actually, to be precise, Hall is the newly crowned National Long Jump Champion for the indoor track season – the outdoor track season is still to come, which is good news for both Hall and fans of Maine sports, as we’ll have another opportunity to watch her bend space and time to her whim.

She’s already excited about the big outdoor track meets.

“I am very much looking forward to New England’s (which are in Maine) and Nationals!”

The sun officially sets on Hall’s high school career this summer, but she’s not done running and jumping yet. She’s set to attend Iowa State University in the fall on a full scholarship. There, she’ll major in kinesiology (exercise science), which seems fitting.

“I talk to my coach there on a daily basis,” Hall says, “and also my future teammates and roommates! Everyone there has been very kind and supportive already and I feel as if I already fit in at ISU before I’m even there.”

And beyond college? “My goal is to become an Olympian someday,” she says. “Becoming a national champion is just one more step closer to that goal and I know I can do it someday. Knowing I can jump 21 feet excites me so incredibly much for what is to come and I cannot wait!”

“Kate has always looked to improve,” says Snow. “And she has improved steadily each year. I expect this to continue in college and beyond. I will not be surprised by any level she reaches, including the Olympics.”

Atop the podium, Hall receives her medal, flowers and flag after taking first in the Long Jump at indoor track Nationals this past weekend in New York City.Kate Hall poses with her trainer Chris Pribush, left, and her parents Jennifer and Eric Hall after winning first at Nationals.