"30 Features in 30 Days". Woodbury’s Hayden Hall a Part of Chase Collegiate Cross-Country Success. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Woodbury’s Hayden Hall was a key part of one of the Chase Collegiate School of Waterbury boys cross-country team’s greatest seasons ever.
A major highlight for the Highlanders was when they captured the Waterbury City Championships for the first time in its history, quite an achievement for a small private school that was going up against its bigger brothers from the city.
“The City Championship was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding races our team had all season,” said Hall, a junior. “For the first time in history the guys team placed first at City's and it was so rewarding to see Coach (Ray) Behr and his excitement over the win. Our entire team was ecstatic and it was one of the biggest wins I've been a part of in my life. With hard work, we will be able to pull out the win again next year.”
Hall became an integral part of the Highlanders this season, finishing third in several races.
“I feel that my season personally went very well. I not only improved my times tremendously from last year but I grew a lot from the races I had. This year was an extremely important year since it followed what I thought was my breakout year last year as a sophomore.”
Coming into this fall, Hall felt he could push himself to his limits and test his abilities, which consequently showed in his times.
“This was a challenging year, running against a lot of Class I, II and III schools who all had a greater caliber of runners than I am accustomed to seeing. But it really helped me strive toward my goals.”
Hall chose to attend Chase because he wanted to discontinue attending public school in his hometown and “had heard of Chase in Waterbury, or St. Margaret McTernan's as it was previously called.” He said, “We looked into the school and after several visits decided it was right for me. I have never once regretted my decision.”
The Chase boys team reached a number of milestones this fall; they won three invitationals, won the City Championship for the first time in school history, placed second at the Connecticut Independent Schools Athletic Conference championships, and won the Housatonic Valley Athletic League championships. In addition, at a 29-team invitational at Marianapolis Prep, going up against Class A, B, C, D, schools across New England, Chase came in fifth, again the best finish in school history. At the recent New England Class IV championship at Marianapolis in Thompson, Ct., the Highlanders finished third for the first time in school history. The team was 8-1 in meets.
Hall’s best finishes were thirds at the Oakwood and HVAL invitational and at the HVAL Championship.
Hall began running cross-country in the seventh grade but “didn't seriously start having the drive to run until last year.” He said, “I think I finally realized the importance of running and the fact that I only had a few more years left of high school running, so I had to make the most of it.”
He laughs that he “was the opposite of good in the beginning” of his running career. “I was unfit, untrained and overall a pretty terrible runner. I think my middle school coach, John Fixx, really kick started my love of running and he helped me get to where I am today.”
He continued, “In my first year of running in seventh grade, I wasn't much of what you would call a natural-born runner. I was short, quite chubby and I had never run before in my life. So the first year wasn't easy to say the least. I just remember looking up to all the eighth graders who were seemingly much better athletes than I was at the time, and wishing one day I could be as good as them. In reality I started running, not because I suddenly realized I wanted to run cross-country but because I wanted to lose weight and feel better about myself.”
Over time, however, Hall learned to love the sport and truly appreciate the impacts it had on him.
“The sport teaches you several life lessons that you may not even realize at the time. You find while running you can do much more than you think possible and that it's truly mind over matter. Cross-country teaches you strength and it gives you the desire to persevere even in the face of hardships. I feel as though throughout my time at Chase I have become a runner who doesn't run because he wants to be thin but rather a runner who loves to run and runs because he feels happy when he runs because he knows that he has come so far from where he started.”
He said his goals coming into the season were “normal runner goals,” simply to beat his times from last year, place in all three championship races, and in general better himself as a runner.
“I never once thought of achieving what I did this year. I pushed all year and ran 18's steadily during the year, inching ever closer to the 17-minute mark. I was a minute faster than my times last year so in that aspect I improved, which did fulfill my goals. I never thought I could break 18 this year but I did and ran a 17:57 at the New England race on Nov. 9. So in my eyes I achieved my goals and breaking 18 was just a little added bonus, the icing on the cake if you will.”
He added that another surprise “were my teammates this year. Every single member of the team really pushed it all season,”
Hall’s training is two seasons long, he runs in the summer and puts in a lot of miles, with long runs to work his endurance up and then pushes himself hard in the fall season to get the best results possible.
“I train for two seasons only because of my winter commitment to wrestling and my longtime love for the spring sport of baseball. So I wait until the summer to begin my cross-country training but I still run every day in the other sports, so in reality I guess I'm always training.”
Hall says he’s enjoyed a wonderful tenure thus far at Chase.
“There are so many great memories and so many great people I've met through Chase I feel I'd be writing a novel if I tried to explain even my best moments. But I would have to say that I've had some of my best memories just being with friends no matter what I do, whether I'm acting on stage, playing baseball or wrestling, or just hanging out at my house. They make the best memories and I wouldn't trade them for the world.”