Long Jumper Kate Hall Has A National Record And An Olympic Dream -- And Diabetes Isn't Holding Her Back
Kate Hall didn't expect to break the 39-year-old girls' high school long jump record this year, but when the senior from Maine leaped 22 feet, 5 inches outdoors at the New Balance Nationals in June, she erased the oldest girls' high school record in track and field.
"I couldn't believe it was even real," said Hall, who had been home-schooled since first grade and represented Lake Region High School in the meet.
Before then, "I hadn't even been in the 21s. That was my goal for the year, to jump 21 [feet]," said Hall, now a freshman at Iowa State.
Hall had, however, been fine-tuning her run-up for several months. She moved back her starting point to 115 feet no longer treated the approach like an all-out sprint. Instead, she lengthened her opening strides, shortening them until she hit top speed, then hit the board tall and upright, instead of leaning (and falling) forward, which had cost her valuable inches in the past.
In addition, Hall had switched to a tubeless insulin pump as a sophomore. Hall, 18, has been managing Type 1 diabetes since she was 10. She was diagnosed a few months after she reluctantly tried track for the first time and immediately fell in love with it. (Her father, Eric, had persuaded her to try track after he noticed that she was winning nearly every sprint he conducted at the end of practice as a volunteer soccer coach.)
Hall's old pump had been cumbersome. It would sometimes fall off or disconnect while she was competing, so she would take it off completely during lengthy high school meets. The new system has two parts: a tiny pump to deliver insulin, which she wears on her arm or hip at all times, and a monitor that reads her blood-glucose level after she pricks her finger. From that monitor, she can wirelessly tell the pump how much insulin to administer.
Hall also uses a wearable device that monitors her glucose continuously and gives real-time data about her blood sugar. The continuous glucose monitor -- a Dexcom CGM, the same brand that singer Nick Jonas promotes and uses -- also lets her share data electronically with her high school personal trainer, Chris Pribish, who will also help her monitor her levels in college.
The Halls say Iowa State's Fletcher Brooks was one of about 40 Division I coaches who tried to recruit Kate and ultimately won her commitment to jump (and sprint) for the Cyclones.
Hall already has a great foundation, Brooks said. "Our focus right now is to establish greater consistency -- in her running mechanics and thus ... in her accuracy on the runway." If that happens, Brooks said, "the potential to hit 'the big one' exists."
Hall also competes in 200 meters and twice placed third in 100 meters at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals, but her blood-glucose levels aren't solely influenced by the demands of each discipline. Stress also causes the body to secrete more sugars, Pribish said. He would sometimes have her ride a stationary bike all-out for 15 seconds between her events in high school to keep those spikes in check.
Since the pump is visible and her diabetes is well-known, does Hall ever worry that the disease will overshadow her athletic achievements? Not a bit, says the kinesiology major.
"I know a lot of people with diabetes that see it as something that needs to be hidden or they're embarrassed of it," Hall says. "I don't think that's how it should be. I think they should realize that if you decide to control it and manage it, and have a positive attitude, you could really do anything you want to."
For Hall, that means becoming an Olympian. (Yet she would not be the first to compete with Type 1 diabetes. Others include Gary Hall, Jr., who won 10 Olympic medals in swimming's sprint events, and Kris Freeman a long-distance cross-country skier who has competed in four Olympics.)
Already, Hall's record-breaking long jump has surpassed the minimum standard for the 2016 Rio Olympics set by the international track federation (IAAF). It also makes her the No. 6-ranked American female long jumper in 2015 and No. 16 in the world this year.
Also worth nothing, Kathy McMillan, who at age 16 in 1976 set the previous girl's high school long jump record -- the one that Hall broke by two inches -- went on to win silver at the Montreal Games, six weeks after making her historic mark.
Brooks believes that Hall's goals of competing at the highest levels of NCAA and beyond are "no pipe dreams. This [is] going to happen."
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