Ready to run
Hall twins lead the way for Westlake first-year coach Baker
Monday afternoon’s drier, breezy conditions offered members of the Westlake High School cross country team a chance to actually enjoy practice, even as some of them ran with a parachute in tow.
Westlake runners have already competed in two meets, finishing 11th most recently in a 15-team invitational at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County. Over the years Fair Hill has been a home to talented thoroughbreds, including Kentucky Derby winners Barbaro and Animal Kingdom and even Breeders Cup Turf champions Better Talk Now and Main Sequence.
But Saturday the hilly terrain offered Westlake junior Jay Hall another chance to display his talents over the course. Hall, whose twin brother, Jett Hall, also competes for the Westlake squad, finished second at Fair Hill one week after capturing the Brunswick Invitational in Western Maryland. It was the type of start to the season Hall had anticipated.
“This year I want to see how high I can place in SMAC,” said Hall, who spent most of last season chasing Northern High School senior standout Matt Bennett. “There’s a lot of good competition in our league, but I would like to place first or second at every meet. Winning the title at Brunswick was a good start and I was happy with the way that I ran on Saturday.”
Hall and his twin brother and their remaining teammates will return to a flatter, more familiar terrain at 4:30 p.m. today when the Wolverines host Southern Maryland Athletic Conference rivals Thomas Stone, Leonardtown and Great Mills in a regular season-opening quad-meet. Atmospheric conditions should be considerably better than they were Saturday when the heat index reached triple digits at Fair Hill.
“It was a tough course and it was very hot and humid,” Hall said of Fair Hill. He placed second in 16 minutes 31.30, a week after winning the Brunswick race in 15:53.21. “I likes the course. It was different. There were a lot of hills and trees. I’m looking forward to my first home meet on Wednesday.”
Westlake first-year head coach Kenn Baker, who is also the Wolverines softball coach in the spring, will have a full complement of 20 runners on hand this fall. In addition to the Hall twins, seniors Tobias Hurley and Niko Reid and sophomores Artez Jones, Carlos Eldridge and Jaquil Mitchell will comprise the boys starting seven. Seniors Skye Cummings and Katie Rahill, junior Jour’dan Haynes and sophomore Jalynn Burruss are the Wolverines’ female runners.
“One thing I like so far is that none of them have quit,” Baker said. “We have a lot of new kids on the team and they have a new coach and they’ve been to two meets and none of them have quit. They’re a great group to work with. They look out for each other here and they help me as much as they can. I’m fortunate to have a great assistant, George Hall, who does a lot of work to help me and these kids.”
Since most of the team had competed at Fair Hill on Saturday, Monday’s practice was scaled back considerably. Most of the runners jogged around the outdoor track inside the football stadium and several others strapped a small parachute around their waist and proceeded to dash across the field as quickly as possible before the resistance of the open chute tugged against them.
“They had a light, twomile run around the track today and now they’re just looking to cooling down with some sprints,” Baker said. “It’s a really good group. We have a good mix of experienced kids and freshmen, so the older ones have already taken the younger kids under their wings.”
Westlake High School junior twins Jett Hall, left, and Jay Hall, head down the track on Monday afternoon in their last stage of practice. Jay Hall began the season by capturing the Brunswick Invitational and placing second in another meet at Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County. STAFF PHOTO BY TED BLACK