At Sports in Kansas it is our obligation to highlight several senior student athletes across the state of Kansas over the next few months for their dedication, hard work and accomplishments in their high school career. In this edition we go to Norton, Kansas. (To nominate a senior: send bio/why to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Connor Hall, senior at Norton Community High School, is a four-time medalist in cross country earning four straight all-state honors for the Bluejays over the last four seasons. He's also a three-time state track and field medalist, once in a relay and in each the 3200 and 1600.
Hall was looking for a big senior track and field season until his senior season was cut short with the Cornavirus as KSHSAA announced the cancellation of all spring sports in Kansas. Hall had a PR of 4:36 last season in the 1600 and was hoping to break the 4:30 mark this season. He also featured a 10:12 mark in the 3200.
Hall is much more than a good runner at Norton. He is an outstanding student athlete where he carries a perfect 4.0 GPA and is a two time KSHSAA Forensics state placer.
Like all senior athletes in Kansas, Hall is experiencing a lost senior season and heartbreak. We caught up with the Norton senior below in the latest Q&A edition of Seniors in Kansas.
We are so proud of your athletic accomplishments and all of your success in high school. We'll always be on the sidelines cheering you on! - Your extended Hall and Stough Family
Q&A w/ Hall
How did you get involved in sports?
I have always been a natural runner, and I didn’t fully realize that until Junior High. Being hilariously uncoordinated and skinny eliminated the prospect of playing anything involving my arms. I had always been a good soccer player, but the lack of a school-funded program left me with distance running! By the time high school came around, I knew for sure I would run cross country. Since then it’s been my year-round sport and hobby!
Biggest accomplishment off the field/court?
Outside of athletics, my proudest accomplishment would probably be the Global Honors scholarship I was awarded from Gordon College. I was fortunate to be selected to receive the scholarship after an extensive interview and essay-writing process through which only 1% of applicants are selected. The scholarship not only grants a generous amount towards my education, but inducts me into a cohort of 11 other students receiving the scholarship. The Global Honors cohort takes international trips, attends special classes, and participates in cross-cultural activities. I am very thankful for this opportunity and I am looking forward to what God has in store!
What were your goals this season?
I had set a couple of time goals as well as podium goals for the State track meet. I wanted to break 4:30 in the 1600, break 10 minutes in the 3200, and place in the top 3 in both events at state. It would have been hard to top my junior track season, but attaining these goals would have done it!
What makes you such a force as an athlete?
I would say my best athletic quality is my willingness to work. If it will make me better, I’ll try it. Like most people, I occasionally struggle to find motivation in the offseason, but I am very good at overcoming those feelings and putting the pedal to the metal when it really counts. I don’t just run to train for competition, I run for my overall mental and physical health.
What’s it like to play multiple sports?
While track and cross country are generally similar sports, they are also vastly different. Cross country training involves more mileage and long runs, while training for the track season is more focused on speed work and tempo runs. They are run on different surfaces and follow very different paths. Minuscule details like these may seem trivial, but they have a drastic impact on your mental strategy and running style.
Explain the heartbreak it was like to hear that the senior season in sports is cut short?
Hearing that my final opportunity to run competitively in high school was gone was a huge blow to morale. While I won’t miss the pressure and stress which accompanies track season, I will definitely miss the competition and the teammates. The common determination and comradery of distance runners is one of my favorite aspects of the sport.
With nothing else to do, I will relax my training a bit before ramping up this summer for my freshman year of college cross country. As Dwight Schrute once said in my favorite TV show “The Office”, “there is nothing on my horizon but everything!”
What is your best sport?
I cannot pick a favorite. Track and cross country both have been extremely developmental for me mentally, physically, and even spiritually. In terms of success, I would have to say cross country, although my senior year of track might have changed that!
What’s the atmosphere like to play for your school and town?
The Norton community is the most supportive and loving community you will find. It’s been a privilege to represent such amazing people these past four years, and it’s disappointing I won’t be able to do so one last time. Norton’s success in almost every aspect of high school athletics and activities only fuels the community desire for more. My success as a runner would not have been possible without the immense support of this town. I can’t imagine running in front of any other crowd. I’m extremely proud to be a Bluejay!
Who were other key players on your team(s)?
Everyone on our cross country team was instrumental in us being able to attain a state trophy this year. Unlike other sports, scoring in cross country counts every varsity runner. If one guy has a lackluster day, the entire team feels it. I was extremely proud of the way our team performed at state this year, especially under heavy competition. Almost everyone ran a personal record. Following several disappointing years of falling short of the podium, it was awesome to finally put the power down and help lead them to a very satisfying state trophy. I love all the guys on our team and it was a pleasure to run with them!
Favorite thing about sports you play?
Definitely the mental toughness and resilience the sport of distance running develops in people. Aside from those attributes, my fellow teammates and competitors are some of the kindest and most genuine folks out there. A sport as demanding and brutal as distance running really brings out the best in everyone involved. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with and running against some truly awesome people who have become great friends. Tough competition is what drives improvement.
What is it like to play for your coaches?
I’ve been blessed with great coaches who are very invested in the development of their athletes. Whether it be making up for missed practices or late-night conversations in their homes, the coaches at NCHS are always available to mentor you and give their advice and wholehearted support. Each and every one of them, whether track or cross country, has had a tremendous impact on my development athletically and personally. It’s been a great honor and privilege to be under their guidance on a daily basis. You definitely won’t find a coach more committed to the success and harmony of his track team than Jason Jones!
How much preparation had you put into sports?
Before my junior year, I honestly wasn’t very invested in my running career. After my junior season of Cross Country, I realized how much I wanted to succeed and the kind of commitment it would take to compete at the level I wanted to. I began a weekly training plan of gradually increasing mileage, and the peak of my training thus far was this past winter. I was running anywhere from 40-50 miles a week and going to the gym almost every day before school. During periods of more intense training, I also find myself to be happier, less stressed, and generally in a better mood. All of this preparation going down the drain definitely hurts, but it is what it is. Life is full of setbacks and disappointments, and how you handle them truly defines your character.
What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?
As of right now, I have committed to run Cross Country and Track at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts and to major in Economics or Political Science. Athletics have always been a must for me, but were not the deciding factor in my college decision. Nor will they be my primary focus in the coming years. My goal first and foremost was to find a quality university which upholds high academic standards in a faith-based environment, and Gordon checked all my boxes. The education gained at the college level is essential for success in the professional world, and will take me much farther than my athletic ability. Nevertheless, the work ethic and perseverance running has taught me are attributes which I will carry for the rest of my life. I look forward to running for an excellent coach and joining a close-knit team at Gordon.
Favorite things to do when you aren’t playing sports?
Playing Xbox with my buds, running my informative Instagram aviation page (almost 10,000 followers), and spending time with my family. Just to name a few!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The future is impossible to predict, but I have my hopes regardless! After college, I might pursue a law degree and work as an in-house legal counsel for a major aerospace company such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, or Raytheon. If it were not for my color-deficient vision, I would most definitely be applying to the United States Air Force Academy in hopes of becoming a fighter pilot.
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?
I am a committed student and consistently strive to uphold the highest academic standards possible to me, maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. My favorite subjects have been history and economics. I enjoy learning about the governmental and societal systems which dictate our lives and decisions every day.
Who is your role model?
Being an avid aviation enthusiast, Kelly Johnson has always been a figure who has inspired me. Johnson was the director of the Skunk Works, the advanced technology development division of Lockheed Martin. He was the mastermind behind the SR-71 Blackbird, the legendary triple-sonic spyplane which provided vital intelligence to the United States during the Cold War for more than 20 years without ever being lost to enemy fire. Johnson and his team worked tirelessly to develop this revolutionary aircraft in the 1950’s and 60’s, motivated only by a desire to help their nation in one of the most critical time periods in history. Johnson’s genius, determination, and belief in the impossible is forever immortalized in this engineering marvel, an aircraft which is awe-inspiring still today.
Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?
There aren’t many choices, but Norton has a great Mexican restaurant called Las Canteras. The Elephant Bistro in Hoxie would probably be considered the best within a 70 mile radius!
What would you say to the underclassmen out there right now reading this?
Train like it’s your last season, because like this spring has proven, you never know if it could be. I wholeheartedly regret not completely investing myself athletically during my underclassman years, and it pains me to know I could have been an even better runner if I had. Therefore don’t hold anything back. You have so much time and potential, so if you want it, go get it.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
I have lived in four states! I was originally born in Massachusetts, where I lived the first three years of my life on campus at Gordon while my dad was an RD. After which we moved to California for three years, and then to Illinois for five. Finally we ended up here in Norton, which is where I’ve spent the past seven years!
Anything else to add?
Once again I would like to extend a huge thank you to my friends, family, coaches, competitors, and teammates who have invested so much in me over the years. You all are the best!
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