NCAA double champ Elijah Hall always knew he could be a great sprinter. The only catch, he has realized, is that he has to stay healthy.
The Houston senior, now 23, started his athletic career primarily as a football player at Morton Ranch HS in Katy, Texas. “I wasn’t really into track,” he says. “I was into football.
“Football had always been my No. 1 goal, but I liked track a lot because I have speed, so after football season I would just go out and run track.”
Then, in his junior season on the gridiron, he tore his right ACL.
“I missed that whole track season,” he says. The next year, he broke his forearm playing football, but he did notch some nice track performances, including a 20.60 that won the State title and earned him the No. 4 All-America rating.
In the summers, he would join up with a club and share baton duty with his friend Cameron Burrell. A newspaper article from back then quotes Burrell as saying they are “almost like brothers.”
By his senior year, Hall decided that if he wanted to be healthy enough to be an athlete, he had to leave football behind.
“I didn’t want to keep getting injured playing football and I wanted to be able to run still,” he explains. “After that I just wanted to stick to track.”
A semester at Garden City CC in Kansas came first, but then he transferred to Butler County CC at the other end of the state.
He dealt with injuries that limited his racing over the next two years. But by ’16, he was healthy, winning the JUCO 100 in 10.16(A) and taking 2nd in the 200 at 20.37.
“I always believed I had world class potential. It was just a matter of training hard and putting my body in a position to stay healthy. I didn’t have a lot of healthy seasons,” he admits.
“That year I was trying to pass so that I could get to a D1 school so that I could get the right training. I knew I had the grades to go to Div. I and I wanted to come to Houston so I could train with coach [Leroy] Burrell and coach Carl [Lewis]. I knew they would get me to where I needed to be.”
In ’17, his first season for the Cougars, Hall showed great promise but was dogged again by injuries, this time a lingering hamstring strain. He hit 10.11/10.00w as well as 19.96w, capturing a double conference win. But the hammy kept him out of the NCAA, where his teammates nonetheless won the 4×1.
Healthy enough to run at USATF, Hall PRed at 20.21 into a headwind to take 3rd and qualify for Worlds. But in doing so, he strained his hamstring again and had to withdraw from the U.S. team.
“It wasn’t necessarily disappointing,” he says, “but it gave me the fuel to get back healthy and get stronger over the off-season. That was my No. 1 goal, to get stronger. I’ve given it everything I’ve got in the off-season to prepare myself for this ’18 season.”
With all that work under his belt, Hall says he wasn’t shocked by winning the NCAA double in 6.52/20.02.
“The goal the whole time was to go there and double, you know,” he says, “And run my best at the right time. My coaches and I worked hard over the last couple of weeks to prepare ourselves and get ready for that moment. When I got there it was about putting everything together at the right time.”
The key, says Hall, is that he’s finally healthy. “My health is great this year, and I’m more focused. This year we worked a lot in the weightroom to get me stronger. It helped a lot.”
Hall seems almost giddy at the prospect of taking his current condition into the outdoor season healthy.
“Outdoors is going to be fun,” he says. “Cameron Burrell is coming back in the 100. It’s going to be a fun race. We’ve been friends a long time. It’s going to be exciting to get out there and help my team try to win the team title.
“I’m just happy to come back and help the team out. The 4×1 is coming back to repeat. We can do some great things this year.”