Steady climb: ALAH's Logan Hall is area's top boys' runner

Steady climb: ALAH's Logan Hall is area's top boys' runner

ARTHUR — Logan Hall's sophomore year of high school may have been the most important time of his young life.

That's not a simple thing to nail down for an athlete who since has won a state track and field title and notched two top-three finishes at the state cross-country meet. But his second year as a prep athlete contained some life-changing moments in his development as a runner.

Hall accepted the coaching services of Justin Jones and met standout Oakwood runner Jon Davis. He also was preparing for life under new Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond coach Derik Eaton.

All of these happenings, combined with Hall's tireless work ethic, pushed him to the aforementioned success, a spot in the Illinois men's distance program and recognition as The News-Gazette's 2017 All-Area Boys' Cross-Country Runner of the Year.

Did Hall imagine all of this was possible when he first competed for the Knights' cross-country team?

"Definitely not," he said with a chuckle. "I definitely didn't think about it at all. I thought I would be a pretty decent runner. I didn't know how I would compete against grown men, being a freshman. But it's working out pretty well."

'He's the real deal'

It's not as if Hall was without direction prior to his sophomore season. In fact, he placed 20th at the Class 1A cross-country state finals in Peoria as a freshman. To say he wasn't doing well for himself would be a fallacy.

But meeting Jones, an Oakwood graduate and four-year runner at Vincennes University, was the first step for Hall in reaching another level.

"It was one of the best things that could've happened to me," Hall said. "He just really knows what he's doing. He's smart about the training he makes you do."

Jones had seen Hall run before the two officially met. That greeting took place at the 2015 state meet, after Hall's 20th-place showing. Jones said he rarely approaches athletes he doesn't know, but something made him do so with Hall that day.

"For some reason, something caused me to turn around and go, 'I'm just going to go tell him good job,'" said Jones, who is a full-time physical therapist at Carle Foundation. "It's been going well since then."

Hall knew Jones was coaching then-Oakwood senior Davis, whom Hall didn't know too well at that point. But Davis, now a sophomore with Illinois' distance squad, already had Hall on his radar.

"The season opener my senior year, he ran that race and led for two out of three laps on St. Thomas More's course," Davis said. "I talked to him after the race, because he ran it pretty (gutsy), so I commended him for that."

The two struck up a more concrete friendship not long after Hall and Jones began working together.

Hall was at the UI's Armory for a workout when Davis approached, carrying a bevy of college apparel with him, namely clothes from Oregon and California after Davis visited those campuses.

What eventually made that ironic was Hall signing with Illinois earlier this month, meaning he and Davis will be teammates by mid-2018.

With two valuable alliances in tow, Hall then gained the tutelage of Eaton, a Sullivan grad and former Southwestern Michigan runner in the late-1980s.

"When he puts the running shoes on, you (see) how incredibly talented this young man was and how dedicated he was to getting better," Eaton said. "I've been around a lot of great runners in my lifetime ... and he ranks right up there on the top as far as commitment. He's the real deal."

Hall was more than happy to have another experienced running voice in his ear as he began his ascension to a leading spot in 1A distance racing.

"He just knew things, that distance running is not easy," Hall said. "He went through it himself, and he has his own philosophies that we intermixed into my training, like hills and stuff. Even on normal runs he'd just drive beside me in town. Even on the track, he was a real help when I was in pain."

'My goal was to win'

Flash forward to the present, and Hall has gone from being a solid competitor to being a must-see star on any course or track.

He placed third in the 2016 1A state cross-country finals with a time of 14 minutes, 44 seconds, following that with a runner-up display of 14:30 this season. Both times he placed behind Athens' Wyatt McIntyre, who will join Illinois as part of Hall's academic class.

"I had a lot of confidence coming from track," Hall said. "My goal was to win the state title. I put in a lot of miles and just came up a little short at the end."

Last spring, Hall turned second place in the 3,200-meter run — finishing behind Davis — and fifth in the 1,600 as a sophomore into first and third, respectively, as a junior.

"When the kid's just making improvements like that, it's just exciting for the future and what's to come, to see what he can do," Jones said.

That's the big question now: How high are Hall's greatest heights as a runner?

Alongside the likes of Davis and McIntyre with the Illini, he believes the cross-country team can contend for a top-10 NCAA Championships finish sooner rather than later.

Eaton believes Hall will put everything he has toward making sure that vision becomes reality.

"He just simply leaves no stone unturned," Eaton said. "He wants to be the best, and he realizes if he does all these things, that works. He's applied himself in these areas."

And while Hall is looking forward to joining his new college family, he won't forget those in his hometown.

"I get people honking at me, scaring the crap out of me. I'll get people rolling up saying, "Keep it up," and I have no idea who they are," Hall said. "That's just how Arthur is, and that's one of the greatest things to have here."

Get to know Logan Hall

Why he's Runner of the Year: The Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond senior and Illinois signee was nearly unstoppable coming off a first-place showing in the Class 1A state 3,200-meter run in his junior track season. He posted the area's top 2017 cross-country time (14:24) and won both the Shelbyville Regional and Carlinville Sectional. He then placed runner-up at the 1A state finals in 14:30.

Season highlights: Winning the Cow Chip Classic and taking down Jon Davis' course record there. Also, going 1-2 at state with future teammate at UIUC (in Athens' Wyatt McIntyre).

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see The Chainsmokers. ... Before I compete, I eat oatmeal and fruit. ... In my dream career, I would be running professionally for the Nike Oregon Project. ... My favorite subject to study in school is science. ... My favorite athletes are Matthew Centrowitz (I actually have socks with his face on them) and Colleen Quigley. ... My favorite TV show is "Friends." ... My first job was as a park district employee. ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I'd choose Matthew Centrowitz, Colleen Quigley and Devon Allen.

Three things on my bucket list: Run a 50-miler, go on a road trip with old friends and get married and start a family.