College Perspective: Kayla Hale

Kayla is currently a junior at Duke University. During her high school career at Holy Trinity she won four cross country state titles and four state titles in the 3200 meters. She was also a two-time state championship in the 1600 meters and was a part of the winning 4x8 team in 2007. She was a three-time Foot Locker National finalist and earned All-American honors twice at Nike Indoor Nationals.

Maybe you are at the beginning of your high school career, and you’re fixated on how to do your hair for state (gotta love the Holy Trinity medusa hair), perhaps you’ve begun to think about what running in college might be like, or maybe you’re full force in the middle of confusion. I’m sure Coach Butler would love to tell anyone willing to listen about my incredible ability to stress, and as hard as this might be for me to admit, I would agree with him. While stress-management may not have been my best attribute during the recruiting process, as it is now, I am living my dream. It has not been the dream I planned for myself, and it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. But through ups and downs I am growing as a person.

Freshman year was more what I envisioned when I pictured myself in college. I started the journey injured, but quickly came back and was blessed enough to be a part of a special XC team, who made a statement with an 8th place finish at NCAAs. I had the honor of running in Trinidad for Team USA and had a somewhat respectable track season.  With all that came some huge adjustments; try going from running with boys every day to having 10 girls who push your limits in every workout. When you get to college, your past accomplishments are merely par with everyone around you. It’s hard to get used to, but it’s exactly that atmosphere I wanted.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. I’ve had some injuries and over a year of inconsistent training. My coach and I have discovered some problem areas and found the necessary steps to improve my strength, so that I can be the runner I want to be. Squats are my new best friend. 

It’s hard to be sure what the future holds. This past week, I ran 44 miles, but you would’ve thought I’d won the lottery. I’m getting over the struggles of feeling out of shape and fighting to find confidence from somewhere inside myself. Track season is on my mind, and while we have no long-term goals firmly established, I’m ready to get back to competing and testing my limits. I’m praying that I find success in my last few years as a Blue Devil. But I have learned that success is never a guarantee, and more importantly it will not define me. Throughout the last three years, I have learned some very important things about myself:

- - I love running, simple as that. Love the way it makes me feel. Love feeling tired at the end of the day. Love how it makes me hungry. Love the company and conversations of a long run. Even love the terrible tan lines.

- - Running is just one part of who I am. True, I believe I am a better version of myself with running in the mix, but it does not define me. Injury has convicted me to look into who I am, apart from an athlete, and to place a greater importance on my faith and relationships.

The question is how to be at peace with both of those revelations simultaneously. I’m working on it, but it sure isn’t easy. But that is what is so great about collegiate running. On one hand, my decision to run at Duke was me saying that I wanted to make running an even more important part of my life. At the same time, college prepares you for the rest of your life, and I am looking ahead to my future, where running will one day become a hobby. If you asked me for my honest opinion about collegiate running, I’d tell you it wasn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and it can be emotionally draining. To say I’ve never shed tear over the last few years would be a lie. But I think it’s safe to say, I’ve grown tremendously since I’ve been here. When you decide to run in college, know that your story will be different than mine. Hopefully, you’ll keep on improving and reach all the goals you have set for yourself. Maybe you will be forced to learn patience and wait a bit longer for these results. What I hope all of you do, is accept TODAY that you don’t know what it’s going to be like, so don’t try to take control. Go for a run today, because its what you love. Hang out with your teammates, because they have become your best friends. Work hard, because you want to see how good you can be.  I’m often reminded by a special someone that running “is just a game.”  We all like to win, but with the right attitude, pursuing your athletic dreams can be a success story, regardless of what the results say.

Personal Bests

  • 1600 Meter Run

  • 4:57.98

  • 3200 Meter Run10:37.59

  • 5000 Meter Run16:38.37

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