CASCO — Victory in hand, Kate Hall didn’t need to take her final attempt in the long jump at the U.S. high school indoor track championships in March. After all, the 18-year-old already had established a meet record of 20 feet, 11.25 inches – a mark that ranks her 24th among American women this year.

But in classic Kate Hall style, she wasn’t done.

As Hall prepared to take off down the runway at the New York City Armory, the announcer directed the crowd to the long-jump pit. Some 3,500 track fans began to clap in unison as they were introduced to “Kate Hall of Casco, Maine.”

In that moment everything remarkable about what Hall has achieved was summed up by the man standing next to her dad, who asked: “Where is Casco, Maine?”

With a joyful laugh, Eric Hall replied: “You mean the hotbed of track and field in the United States?”

Kate Hall, a Lake Region High sprinter who will attend Iowa State University this fall on a full scholarship, has distinguished herself by excelling in track and field events typically dominated by athletes from warmer climates. And she has done so as a Type 1 diabetic with celiac disease, making her perhaps the most unusual story of high school athletic excellence Maine has ever seen.


Local sports legends agree: In a state better known for distance runners, Hall is the greatest sprinter and jumper, if not the best high school athlete, to come out of Maine.

“She’s a little bit of a one-of-a-kind. To have come from a state that is not a perennial powerhouse in track and field, it’s remarkable what she’s achieved,” said Eric Weinrich, a former University of Maine hockey player who competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics and played in the NHL.

Heading into next weekend’s national outdoor track and field championships, Hall has earned All-American status six times. On Saturday, she won her fifth and sixth New England high school titles – setting meet records in the long jump and 100-meter dash.

Her immediate goal is to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials in 2016.

“I can’t think of anyone who has achieved even close to the success that Kate has had, because she’s not only won and broken records in track, she’s at a level that is just amazing. I think she’s in a clear space all her own,” said Dick Whitmore, director of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame.

Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson of Freeport said Hall’s athletic achievements are no less impressive than her potential for future success.


“She’s right there among the best Maine athletes of the past,” Samuelson said. “I always hesitate to say someone is the best ever. I hate to put pressure on young athletes. Certainly she is the best jumper and sprinter to come out of Maine. She is at the top in her category.”


The road Hall has taken to national success has not been easy. A home-schooled student, Hall often trains twice a day, sometimes three times because she must practice with the Lake Region High team to remain eligible to compete in Maine high school sports. All the while she must constantly monitor a life-threatening disease.

When Hall first started to excel in track at age 10, she began to lose weight and energy. After her condition was misdiagnosed and got worse, her parents, Jen and Eric Hall, rushed her to Maine Medical Center and learned in the emergency room she had Type 1 diabetes.

When the blood work came back again there was a further diagnosis: celiac disease, which affects the small intestine if a gluten-free diet is not followed. Jen Hall immediately began to cry.

Then something happened that Eric Hall said would define his daughter’s resolve. Kate asked the nurse to give her the needle so she could inject the first shot of insulin into her arm and begin the treatment needed to maintain a safe blood-sugar level.


“I know grown men who would not stick themselves with a needle that big,” Eric Hall said. “But Katie said to my wife, ‘Don’t worry, Mom, I’m going to be OK.’ ”

Type 1 diabetes, which affects 3 million Americans, must be strictly monitored with daily blood tests, unlike Type 2, which can be controlled through diet. With increased activity, blood-sugar levels drop because muscles use up sugar. When blood-sugar levels are too low, muscles perform poorly. If blood-sugar levels drop significantly, a person can lose consciousness. Blindness, kidney failure and amputations can result if levels run too high too often.

Type 1 does not preclude elite athletes from pursuing careers in professional sports. There are many examples, such as baseball Hall of Famer Ron Santo, Philadelphia Flyers legend Bobby Clarke, and a three-time Olympian and gold medalist, swimmer Gary Hall.

However, Type 1 diabetes makes competing in sports extremely difficult, said Jerrold Olshan, Hall’s endocrinologist at Maine Medical Center. That Hall must avoid food with gluten further complicates her condition.

She must check her blood-sugar levels at least five times a day. At track meets she might prick her finger that many times before her events. If her blood-sugar level rises, she needs to calculate how much insulin to take, sometimes using a pump attached to her arm. If it drops, she must sip juice or eat. Twice a week, she must change the pump to prevent scarring on her arm.

“Probably the most active Olympic athletes, and Kate is very similar to one in her training, have to really work during practice to figure out what is the right amount of carbohydrates to take and the right amount of insulin,” Olshan said. “Kate has been a star all along taking a lot of responsibility for herself.”


Despite these challenges Hall’s performance on the track has been just as reliable as her attention to her diabetes. For four years, she has continued to raise her own bar.

“At nationals when she kept hitting big jumps, I was amazed,” Eric Hall said. “To be ranked No. 1 in the nation all season and then show up and get it done. I don’t know how she does it. That’s just Kate.”


Longtime Bowdoin College track coach Peter Slovenski, whose son David won a national high school championship in the pole vault seven years ago, said what makes Hall unique is her success as a sprinter in a state where winter can seem interminable.

While Maine’s cooler weather benefits distance runners, its climate presents a challenge to sprinters and jumpers, who need to keep muscles warm to get the explosive power and speed required for quick bursts.

Hall has beaten the odds, Slovenski said, by following an unconventional training regimen, and never backing off her competitive, hungry pace.


“Kate has been ingenious in the way she trains and competes in the conditions she has,” Slovenski said. “Kate has done three of the most amazing things that anyone has ever done in Maine high school sports: She’s the only girl to go under 12 seconds in the 100 (meters); she is the only girl to go under 25 in the 200; and her long jump record skipped an entire foot in the record books, from 18-9 to 20-5.”

Kate and her father, who helps coach her, say they came to their unique training regimen purely by accident.

After Hall pulled her hamstring going into eighth grade, she went to Saco Bay Physical Therapy in Windham. On her last day of rehabilitation, she was introduced to trainer Chris Pribish, who a year later opened a facility in South Portland called The Medically Oriented Gym. Pribish’s approach to develop speed and jumping power through weight lifting and activity-specific exercises was Hall’s answer to training in a cold climate.

The first year Pribish worked with Hall to prevent injury. As her strength improved, he recommended Eric Hall bring his daughter twice a week to South Portland – about a 45-minute drive from their home. Pribish promised he could build her core and leg strength, giving her the explosive power needed to sprint faster and jump farther than the competition.

He proved true to his word.

The next year Hall swept three events at the indoor and outdoor Class B state meet as a freshman, setting a state record in the 100 meters. The Medically Oriented Gym became her second home, and her progress continued.


After her sophomore year, when she won two New England titles and placed fourth in the 100 meters at outdoor nationals, Pribish said he knew she would only get better.

“When she was breaking state records as a freshman we thought, ‘We’re on to something,’ ” Pribish said. “Then her sophomore year when she was winning New Englands, we thought we’ve probably got something pretty special.”

Today Hall can dead lift 275 pounds five times in a row. She can complete a standing jump over a 40-inch bar before executing a second standing jump over a 44-inch bar. On a video Pribish filmed of the double jump, Hall’s knees rise up in front of her face on the last jump before she stops on the other side of the bar, smiles and laughs.

“He knows the science of it,” Eric Hall said. “We’ve put our trust in him. By junior year, he was doing all of it, the weight training, the track workouts. I just hold the blocks and run the clock. Kate’s his girl.”

As a junior, Hall earned All-American three more times, finishing second at indoor nationals in the long jump, third at outdoor nationals in the 100 meters, and sixth outdoors in the long jump.

Her senior year she did one better: Hall opened her final indoor track season by claiming the nation’s No. 1 ranking in the long jump, and never relinquished it. Pribish credits Hall’s success to her intense drive.


“I remember as a freshman watching the Olympics on TV and thinking that was my ultimate goal,” Hall said. “It’s crazy to look back and see all I’ve accomplished.”


And so for four years, two days a week Hall has gone from English, history, Spanish and piano lessons in her Casco home to train at the Fryeburg Academy or University of Southern Maine field houses, then on to Pribish’s gym in South Portland. Some days she heads back to Naples to train with the Lake Region team.

It’s been a lot of back-and-forth for father and daughter, said Eric Hall, who is a sixth-generation family member to run Hall Funeral Home and has the flexibility in his job to train Kate. The result has been an unusual schedule that’s worked. And Eric and Jen Hall, who just adopted a 4-year-old boy they came to love while caring for him as foster parents, say they favor the unconventional approach to life.

Hiring a trainer came with a cost. But Eric Hall said the added expense is no more than the cost of travel teams and Amateur Athletic Union clubs in other sports. The money has been well spent, he said.

“When I started school in first grade,” Kate said, “it’s not like my parents said, ‘We’ll home-school you so you do track and train with a trainer.’ Nobody knew I’d meet Chris. But my classes at home have fit around my training schedule. It’s cool how everything worked out.”


Two weeks ago, Hall sat outside Pribish’s gym and shared that she sometimes gets so much power in her takeoff for the long jump that she gets a “crazy amount of height I don’t know how to handle.”

The work has produced the desired results. But by no means has the road been easy.

“I told my mom the other day it’s been two months since I just had a day at home to relax,” Hall said. “Then there are days my blood-sugar is high for no reason. I get frustrated, but then I think, I have to deal with it. I love doing this. I really do. I love it.”


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