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Whitney runner finishes back in state pack

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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By Cecil Conley Sports Editor Megan Hall’s parents have learned their lesson. They will never again underestimate their daughter. The family planned a trip to Las Vegas this week to coincide with Thanksgiving vacation at Whitney High School. Hall is getting break from the books, but she is not taking time off from running. Hall competed Saturday in the state cross country championships. Instead of preparing this week with Wildcats coach Mark Snow, she ran on her own or with her father in Las Vegas. The competition at Woodward Park in Fresno proved to be a bit much for Hall, who finished 134th in the Division III race with a time of 20:37. Snow and Hall’s parents did not expect the sophomore to qualify for the state meet. The family traveled from Las Vegas to Fresno for the championships without time for a pit stop in Rocklin. Hall never imagined she would advance this far in her first season of varsity cross country competition. She did not run in the fall as a freshman after sustaining a stress fracture in her right hip. If she had to bet on the Wildcats, Hall would have put her money on sophomore Ryan Hodgens to make it. Hodgens fell short, however, so he offered to be Hall’s training partner last week. Her eighth-place finish in the Capital Athletic League finals Oct. 29 was no indication of what was to come. Hall was 24th in the Division III race at the Sac-Joaquin Subsection meet Nov. 6. Those performances did not make anyone think Hall would be a contender at the section meet at Willow Hills Park in Folsom. Hodgens was second in the CAL finals and sixth in the subsection meet. Hodgens’ season ended when he was 13th at the section meet. He missed advancing by two places once the members of the top three teams were eliminated from the individual standings. Hall left nothing to chance by finishing eighth. Three runners from Vista del Lago finished ahead of her, but they did not count as individuals because Vista Del Lago claimed the team title. Her time of 20:18 was 90 seconds faster than her previous best at Willow Hills. It was a minute faster than her time at the subsection meet. Maybe Hall was simply saving her best for last. “It surprised me,” Hall said of her performance. “I ran a different race than I normally do. I got out fast.” Hall’s strategy was a good sign for Snow, who has helped the sophomore develop “the mental aspect of being a racer and not just a runner.” Hall is now starting to figure it out for herself. “You don’t think it’s mental, but it is,” she said. “I just wasn’t there at the beginning of the season. I wasn’t into the races.” Snow has noticed a difference. “These last four weeks, Megan has shown more of a desire to excel and live up to her own expectations,” Snow said. “Her workouts have been better and her racing has been more consistent.” Hall worked out at the school last Thursday before leaving for Las Vegas. She did not see Snow again until Saturday. Snow gave her a training schedule for her preparation during her vacation. Once Hall and her family enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast, she planned to grab her sneakers and go for a run. “After all that eating, I’ll need to get a couple of calories off,” she said. “I eat a lot.”