Stonington's Kate Hall is a basketball player ... and a track star

Stonington junior Kate Hall has a comfortable lead as she finishes the 200-meter race during Monday's dual meet against Montville in Stonington. Hall is the top seed in the 200 for Saturday's Eastern Connecticut Conference championship meet at East Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Stonington junior Kate Hall has a comfortable lead as she finishes the 200-meter race during Monday's dual meet against Montville in Stonington. Hall is the top seed in the 200 for Saturday's Eastern Connecticut Conference championship meet at East Lyme. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Stonington — Kate Hall is a basketball player.

Stonington High School's junior point guard, Hall is drawn to the intensity of the game, the emotions she believes are unparalleled in any other sport.

She plays under longtime Stonington coach Paulla Solar, who requires excellence and accountability — on the court, in the community and in the classroom — a demand which Hall believes has crafted the Bears into a family, yet another emotional tie.

“I love my coach. I love my teammates. I love it. I love it to death,” said Hall, an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II first team all-star. “My favorite thing to do is be in a close basketball game.

“Down the line, the assistant coaches, the people who come help us at practice, the whole team. It's not just basketball. It's not just winning games. … You can't be two minutes late, five minutes late. But I do appreciate it. (Solar is) preparing you for the world.”

And yet, Kate Hall is also track star.

She ran the 100 meters in a personal-best 12.4 seconds to finish first in Monday's dual meet against Montville, even better than the 12.56 she ran to capture last season's Class M state championship.

Hall is the top seed in the 200 meters at Saturday's ECC championship meet at East Lyme High School (9:30 a.m. field events, 10 a.m. track) and is ranked second in the 100 behind Griswold's Kalli'ana Botelho, the defending champion.

Hall was eighth in New England in the 200 last year in 26.31 seconds and has improved on that, as well. Monday's meet against Montville yielded a time of 26 seconds flat. She has led the Bears to back-to-back ECC Division II championships. The college recruitment offers have begun.

“She's a competitor,” said Ben Bowne, Stonington's boys' track coach and the overall sprints coach for both the boys' and girls' programs. “She runs to win. She raises the level to where it needs to be. Kate's going to run to win.”

Bowne, for instance, took his team to compete in an early-season meet at Westerly, which paired Hall against Westerly's Emma Santee, one of the top 100-meter runners in Rhode Island. Hall won the 100 against Santee by .03 seconds (12.5-12.53). Santee took the battle in the 200 by .06 (25.44-25.5).

“When you run against the best, you run the best,” Bowne said. “… (Hall) has such fast turnover. She's quick out of the box. Some people have it.”

Hall wore a blue Clemson sweatshirt during Monday’s meet with orange lettering, keeping warm between events. In addition to her individual victories, Hall joined the 4x100 relay team which finished first in 51.9 seconds. Stonington needed every point, edging Montville 78-72 to clinch at least a tie for the Division II championship.

She said she didn’t realize at the time what a distinction it was for her to win the Class M 100 title last year at New Britain’s Willow Brook Park. She also finished fourth that day in the 200, an afternoon Hall mainly remembers for the oppressive heat and for the fact she was dehydrated.

By the time she finished sixth in the 200 at the State Open in much the same weather, Hall said she was “done,” never really taking the time to enjoy it.

“I didn’t understand,” said Hall, a three-sport athlete who also plays soccer. “I was, like, happy, but I didn’t understand the significance.”

•••

It was perhaps a moment before she ever began her basketball career at Stonington which cemented Hall’s respect for Solar. Upon the start of basketball season Hall’s freshman year, Solar was notified that Hall had a 1.9 grade point average, shy of the 2.0 she needed to be eligible for competition.

“I’ll never, ever forget,” Hall said. “Coach Solar had to come in. She took me to my teachers; I had to find out what I had to do to get a 2.0 in the next three days (before the end of the marking period). It was the biggest eye-opener. We were really upset that day. Now I’m doing so well. I went from a 1.9 to a 3.6.”

Hall also had some adjusting to do on the court.

“She was really extra hard on me,” Hall said of Solar. “I know now that she just wanted to see me blossom. Just dumb stuff. I was a typical freshman. I didn’t get it.”

This season, Hall marked her third year as a member of the basketball team. She averaged 14.0 points and 3.1 steals per game.

The 5-foot-7 Hall showed her resilience — and her emotion — in a game against Waterford in early February, with the Bears playing for the Division II lead. She finished with 19 points and four steals, including clutch 3-point field goals at the end of the first half and with 47 seconds remaining in the game to cap a 12-point Stonington comeback.

The tears streamed down Hall’s face following a 61-59 loss.

“I will never not feel affected by the Waterford game,” Hall reiterated this week. “Waterford’s always been a big to-do. … Basketball is very emotional. Sometimes I need to pull it together. It’s a lot of self-talk, going through these hard situations.”

Solar isn’t sure Hall, who grew up playing basketball with her two older brothers “ruining her day,” she said, at first understood the expectations that accompany being a high school athlete.

“That’s the whole thing,” Solar said. “She bought into it. She understands what we’re trying to do 100 percent. She might not like some of the workouts we do, but she still understands it. … Playing basketball is a grueling game. It’s long. You lose your vacations. It’s a huge commitment. Kate understands that. That’s her loyalty.”

Hall is uncertain where she will attend college and what she wants to major in.

She does know one thing she hopes to accomplish in her lifetime no matter what sport she chooses to pursue at the next level. Influenced by her affinity for March Madness, Hall insists she’ll someday coach a Division I basketball team, even though she admits that she and her own coach, Solar, “need a break sometimes.”

“But it’s honestly all love,” Hall said of Solar. “It’s a lot about respect. She’s big on respecting your parents, your elders. It’s (her) way or no way, but it’s awesome. I love her. She’s a good coach.”

Now, however, comes a new postseason in track and a chance for Hall to take it all in should she be afforded the opportunity once again.

“I’m looking forward to Saturday,” Hall said.

This is her sport, too, after all.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

 

Stonington's Kate Hall, left, battles Waterford's Lili Stoddard (3) for a loose ball during a game on Jan. 6. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Stonington's Kate Hall, left, battles Waterford's Lili Stoddard (3) for a loose ball during a game on Jan. 6. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

ECC TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Following is a list of top seeds for Saturday's Eastern Connecticut Conference outdoor track and field championship meet at East Lyme (field events begin at 9:30 a.m., running events at 10):

Girls

100-meter dash — Kalli'ana Botelho (Griswold)

200 — Kate Hall (Stonington)

400 — Kate Carleson (Plainfield)

800 — Mady Whittaker (Montville)

1,600 — Cassandra Carleson (Plainfield)

3,200 — Kaitlyn Stevens (Killingly)

100 hurdles — Sophia Podeszwa (Waterford)

300 hurdles — Botelho (Griswold)

4x100 relay — Fitch

4x400 relay — Plainfield

4x800 relay — NFA

High jump — Botelho (Griswold)

Pole vault — Paige Martin (NFA)

Long jump — Madison Powe (Fitch)

Triple jump — Jaime Jax (Killingly)

Shot put — Sasha Salan (East Lyme)

Discus — Christianna Johnson (Montville)

Javelin — Rachel LaSaracina (Bacon)

Boys

100-meter dash — Jawaun Johnson (NFA)

200 — Greg Clark (Montville)

400 — Nik Strickland (Montville)

800 — Nick Fitch (NFA)

1,600 — Alex Korczynski (Windham)

3,200 — Brandon Mehlinger (NFA)

110 high hurdles — Cam Whalen (Stonington)

300 intermediate hurdles — Whalen (Stonington)

4x100 relay — NFA

4x400 relay — Montville

4x800 relay — Windham

High jump — Devin Craig (Waterford)

Pole vault — Chris Weir (NFA)

Long jump — Dommoy Ennis (Killingly)

Triple jump — Collin Wiltshire (Ledyard)

Shot put — Travis Shashok (Windham)

Discus — Shashok (Windham)

Javelin — Shashok (Windham)

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