Greg Hall’s legacy lives on at Gans Creek w/ Champions Plaza

Chris Auckley

Monday, October 5, 2020

It was a gorgeous day…

Saturday, September 26, at Gans Creek Recreation Area on the south end of Columbia. It was not perfect though. The photographer in Greg Hall would have preferred more thin cloud coverage to filter the sunshine and soften the light on the athletes he loved to photograph. He also would have preferred less wind, which blew the big, thick clouds thru quickly, creating moments of full sunlight instantly followed by shade, changing the lighting conditions and making his job tougher as he sought good exposure and color for his images.

Hall would have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to capture and share moments that parents and fans would miss or only see on the webcast as spectators were prohibited at the 2nd Annual Gans Creek Classic cross country meet, due to Coronavirus restrictions. The five divisions and ten varsity races that were held, were spread out over eight hours with 30-minute breaks between each division, allowing for a much lower amount of contact between the 1,200-plus athletes and their coaches that were on hand throughout the day compared to a normal meet.

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However, what Greg Hall would have really loved, and humbly said he wasn’t worthy of, was what happened at 1:30 p.m., as well as what will happen in the next year and what has happened since his sudden passing on January 2nd. It was at 1:30 p.m. that Columbia Parks and Recreation director Mike Griggs began the groundbreaking ceremony for the Greg Hall Champions Plaza. The awards area at the year-old, world-class Gans Creek Cross Country course, was to be named after the health care software company administrator who was a beloved columnist, reporter, photographer, and champion for young athletes. Family, friends, and Columbia Parks and Recreation department and Mizzou staff gathered for the socially distant groundbreaking ceremony. Greg’s wife Donna and their two sons, Shannon and Dustin were there to move a little dirt and honor their husband and father.

Since his death, current Lafayette High School head girls cross country coach and former Lafayette boys assistant coach Steven Stallis and Jeffrey Hindman, father of former Lafayette superstar Austin, spearheaded an effort to have Greg honored at the new facility in Columbia. The pair worked with Columbia Parks and Recreation staff to design plans for the venue were adjusted and then the pair began a fundraising campaign to build it in Greg’s name. In just a short few months, the $40,000 necessary was raised to make the project happen. Go Fund Me.

A small, socially distanced ceremony was held with family and friends in attendance, including Greg’s wife Donna and two sons: Shannon and Austin. Blue Springs High School boys cross country coach Frank Gallick spoke about his friend whom he first observed as just another eager parent photographer who seemed to be a little too close to the action and sometimes got in the way. However, Gallick saw Hall grow from a “typical parent” and amateur photographer to an excellent craftsman who captured some of Coach Gallick’s most memorable moments through a camera lens.

Gallick added “It got to where, when you went to a race…if you saw Greg there, you knew it was a big race. It was like ‘This is Prime Time, this is pretty cool, my photos are going to be on MO MileSplit, I’m going to have something (about me) out there’.” Greg was the ultimate cheerleader and ambassador for the athletes and their sport. Gallick said, “…he became an ambassador for the sport of cross country and track and field. We don’t get a lot of publicity, we’re not in the paper a lot, but when you saw Greg there, it was like ‘Man, I’m going to have some good pictures, I’m going to check out MO MileSplit, to see that finish, to see this person running.’ It was like he knew as a parent, he knew as a runner, he knew what those moments were about.”

Gallick talked about Hall’s development and acceptance from athletes, “I remember when he first started, he would get the teams to stand all together like ‘Hey, let me get a picture of you.’, and you’d be like ‘who is this guy, why is he making us do this?’ But after a while you look and you go, ‘Man, I’m glad he did that’, and then he got to where he didn’t ask you, he just was very subtle about it, he started to pick up on it and notice it. One of my favorite pictures of my team is from the year we won state. They were all standing together, and you saw this focus, and it was just like ‘That’s what we want to see,’ and it was just awesome.”

The veteran distance running coach from Kansas City added, “And he kept developing, he started this All-Hair picture team thing. I honestly wonder if he started because he kind of had the receding hair line thing going, so he was kind of envious. Sorry, I had to put a little dig on him there because he always would get after me about stuff. It was really cool because you saw people get excited, ‘I made the All-Hair Team’ or ‘I made’ such and such. It was really neat to see that, that he would (highlight) not just the (good) runners but what was unique about people and what allowed them to express themselves.”

Gallick expounded on Greg’s growth from his work with the camera and social media to his feature stories that highlighted athletes and their journeys. “Then he took it to another level, then he started writing stories. I had a runner of mine he wrote a story about, and it was very moving because people from even the St. Louis area, who never even knew who my runner was, started asking about his life… He wrote stories on the Lafayette team, which, what a great team that was, and you got to know all these people. It was just so special. I don’t know if he ever got paid, or if he did, he didn’t get paid much, but it was like he did it because he loved it. He just truly had a passion for it. It is so great to have someone to be that ambassador, to be able to stand out, and I say, you know man, I thank you for doing it, I thank you for covering the sport, because we don’t get a lot of coverage, but when he was there, we knew it.”

Gallick wrapped up his speech reflecting on the memories Greg created and that his memory would always remain visible with the plaza named after him at Gans Creek. “They say a picture lasts forever, and that memory stands there. The fact that we are doing this is so special because just like we look at a picture and remember (that moment) forever, when we come out here to this beautiful complex that is dedicated to cross country, and we’ll see something dedicated to him, we’ll always remember him for what he did for the sport and how he treated everybody else. I’m really proud and honored to be a part of this. I can’t wait. I’d rather he was here taking pictures, I truly miss him, we think about him all the time, but I’ll never forget him as long as I’m able to look at this here (pointing to the plaza and dedication plaque design displays).”

Video: 2020 Greg Hall Champions Plaza Groundbreaking Ceremony:

Greg’s wife of 35-plus years Donna followed and elaborated on what most people who had seen his work knew. “He really was a great ambassador, he really felt cross country kids were under appreciated.” She thanked the donors and the pair that pushed so hard for it. “I want to thank Jeff Hindman and Steven Stallis for leading and shepherding the idea, and the project along. It’s a beautiful, beautiful location, this is a really neat area. I want to thank everyone for coming. We miss him every day, so, this is a very fitting and a great memorial to him. Thank you.”

Greg’s son Shannon, the former Liberty High School All-Stater and former Mizzou runner, who’s high school participation got Greg to cross country and track meets where his passion for the sports and its participants began, also spoke. “Greg was many things to many people. He was a father, a brother, a husband, a boss, he enjoyed many hobbies, not just photography and distance running, but he was very big into landscaping, golfing, writing, playing flag football, and (was even) elite until he was almost a senior citizen.”

“He really had just an aura he could bring into any room, any large group of people and not only to relate to them but make them laugh and inspire them. He just really had that aura about him.” Shannon also emphasized the family’s appreciation for all involved. “Thanks to those who came today and those who donated as well as Jeff Hindman, Steve Stallis and the City of Columbia, Parks and Rec for their combined effort. (We) really, really appreciate all of you guys and everybody who donated and showed up. My family and I have been blown away by all the support we’ve received in the past several months. I know Greg means a lot to not only me, but to everyone who knew him, so thank you guys so much, I appreciate it.”

Greg’s brother Tim Hall made it to the lectern to talk about his sibling and claim some bragging rights. “Greg was a quarterback; he was a better high school athlete than he was a runner. He played football, (was) all-state in baseball, and (played) basketball. He started pretty much from the time he was a sophomore-on, except for basketball, where I schooled him regularly.”

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Tim discussed Greg’s running accomplishments and the kind of guy he was. “He ran three Boston Marathon’s. He ran the marathon the year before the bombing, the year of the bombing, and the year after. You talk about him taking pictures coach, he was sending pictures out to the AP from inside the ropes because they shut everything down after the bomb went off at the finish line. The fella he knew from Kansas City that was the AP guy said, ‘Well Greg, what do we owe you, what do you need?’ He goes ‘I don’t need anything, just give me the byline,’ he said ‘I just want to get credit for the pictures.’ So that was just the way he was.”

Tim added “I’ve got to tell you a story. Coach (Gallick), you said he only got in the way once, or had one altercation with another family member or other parent. I know that’s (BS). Greg was, if nothing… he was not shy.”

Tim then discussed his brother’s passion and persistence in the pursuit of great photos and how that led to one moment of questionable judgement but made for a great story about Greg and a legendary Missouri athlete at the Drake Relays. “It was 2015, the year before the Olympics. (Greg) is down on the field and I could see him because he had a red hat on and a yellow vest. I’m watching him and he’s taking photos of the shot put and it was (one) of the invitational events so you had all of these guys like Christian Cantwell who are getting ready for the (2016) Olympics.

I don’t know what the hell Greg was thinking. Cantwell is in his spin and Greg goes running across…he’s literally right there. Cantwell stops halfway thru his throw and just starts screaming at him. Greg was just trying to get a picture…He was trying to get a picture, but he almost got clobbered because that’s a big dude…those guys who throw the shot are big dudes. (Greg) goes running off, they are trying to get officials to find him and throw him out. The next thing I know, about five minutes later, I’m sitting on an aisle, he taps me on the shoulder, he said, ‘Give me your hat’. True story. I gave him the hat. Five minutes later he was back down on the infield. Thank God he had the good sense to stay away from the shot put ring for the rest of the day.”

Tim wrapped with some final words summarizing Greg, as well as words of thanks and about what made Greg happy. “He was a wonderful guy. He would love this; he would love especially the fact that it’s a team effort and that the teams are going to come up here and get their pictures taken. He would take individual pictures, but he would love the aspect, does love the aspect, that it’s a team event and a team memorial. I can’t thank Jeff, Mike, Steve, all the parks and rec guys and what you’ve done here, coach (Gallick), I appreciate your comments… but I got to tell you, Greg would have loved this. He just truly took to this sport. I played (sports) against him, I played with him, but I think he was happiest when he was out here watching Shannon run, when he was taking pictures of the other kids, high school kids, college kids, because he truly truly enjoyed that. He talked to me more about that, would send me pics about all the different teams and so this is very much an honor and tribute to him. I can’t thank you all enough on behalf of Greg’s extended family.”

It was a gorgeous day…

 and the memory of it won’t leave the minds of those who were there, however many more memories will be made in the future at Gans Creek and at the Greg Hall Champions Plaza, which will be brought to life over the next year.  

I guess it was 2012

when I met Greg Hall. Kansas City Star columnist Yale Abouhalkah introduced me and Paul Everett to his former fellow Star columnist Hall. Abouhalkah and Hall were running buddies and both running dads, having sons that ran in high school and were or would be doing so in college. The introduction occurred near the first turn on the cross country course at Oak Hills Golf Center. It just past the 500-meter mark at the State Cross Country Championships in Jefferson City, between the clubhouse and the finish line. Everett, the Missouri MileSplit webmaster at the time, didn’t wait long after that first meeting to reach out to Greg Hall to seek his writing and photography skills for the website. Little did I know at the time the impact Greg would have on my life and so many others.

Greg was an Omaha, Ne. native who was one of 15 kids. Hall grew up playing sports including high school football, basketball, and baseball, earning All-State honors in baseball before going on to college at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Greg met his wife Donna in Omaha and they eventually moved to her native Missouri. Hall spent the second half of his life in the Kansas City area and became well-known in the sports media market. An avid and outspoken sports fan, Greg and his opinions made waves on the Kansas City radio airways, going by the moniker “Husker” to denote his University of Nebraska Husker fandom. Hall landed a sports column in the Kansas City Star and went on to contribute columns to several newspapers and websites, featuring his observations and opinions on professional and college sports and those involved.

Greg took up running in his 30’s and eventually went on to run in three Boston Marathons. As mentioned, he also became a running dad as his oldest son Shannon ran at Liberty High School in Liberty, Mo. Shannon went on to be an All-State performer for the tradition-rich Liberty Blue Jays cross country and track programs, before going on to run at the University of Missouri. Greg was there for it all, to photograph Shannon and so many other athletes in high school sports, though primarily and most passionately in cross country and track and field.

Greg captured so many special moments and emotions with his cameras and his words. While being a columnist, photographer, writer, reporter, as well as working his full-time job in the medical software industry, he was an ambassador for people. Greg was a champion for young people and their pursuits. He lifted others and their stories into the light for many to see, recognize, and respect.

Greg was a cheerleader and advocate for young athletes. He saw and captured their valuable moments in competition with a camera, while also creating connections and relationships with them. He made them stop and smile for photos, had teams pose together at cross country start lines, caught emotions on their faces and the strain in their bodies as they gave their all in competition. He then shared those images, stories, observations, descriptions, and opinions thru different platforms including Twitter, Missouri MileSplit and numerous other outlets he contributed to. He even gathered top finishers together for group photos after competition, celebrating their performances and encouraging their relationships. There was no reason that athletes, despite their common goals in competition, couldn’t also be friendly if not even friends before and after.

Athletes could not wait to see if they happened to have been captured through Greg’s camera lenses. It was special to have been caught by Greg’s camera or mentioned by him online. Greg highlighted the hard work and accomplishments of coaches and athletes, especially in cross country and track and field, which are far down the pecking order and publicity ladder of American sports. He shined a light on the unique team comradery and social connections the sports provide. Greg also gained a following with his greatly anticipated and enjoyed “All-Hair Team” photos from meets. He featured athletes with unique hair styles and colors and even simply those with simply great heads of hair.

Greg was a genuine, kind, and caring person. He was also opinionated and not afraid to share his thoughtful opinions, which led to his success as a columnist. Greg dared to say and write what he thought, even if it made others uncomfortable, was politically incorrect, or was unorthodox. Greg called it like he saw it. He called out adults in positions of power when he saw what he thought was wrongdoing or less than good enough and short of the mark of acceptable.

When the Blue Springs School District denied the opportunity for state champion runners Victor Mugeche of Blue Springs High and Tory Findley of Blue Springs South High School to travel to California for the prestigious Arcadia Invitational track and field meet in April of 2018, despite Victor’s older brother Stephen having done so in 2014 for Blue Spings, Greg responded. Stephen’s 2014 trip provided the opportunity to run in an extremely fast race where he took advantage of the opportunity. Stephen Mugeche joined the elite, sub-9-minute 3200-meter race club, running 8:58 as a junior.

The school district said it was “just a school district policy” and that they generally don’t send teams or individuals out of state to compete in California and that the financial cost and missed classes were also reasons the two standouts weren’t being allowed to go. The district activities director said the pair didn’t need to go out of state to compete, that it wasn’t in their best interest and that Stephen’s situation was different because he hadn’t secured a college scholarship yet while Victor and Tori already had, having signed with Mizzou. Well, Greg didn’t hold back, breaking down and reacting to many of the quotes the AD gave in an interview. You can see Greg’s column here: GregHallKC 

Despite rubbing some people the wrong way with his blunt and outspoken critique, Greg was a talented person who knew how to tell a great story. He did so when he wrote about Blue Springs runner Cody Berry who, despite a tough family life, persevered to become an All-State runner: MO.MileSplit. Hall highlighted more perseverance with the story of Battle High School’s Avery Anderson last Fall. Anderson runs cross country while having two prosthetic legs: MO.MileSplit.

Greg made his way across Missouri to spend a few days in St. Louis to feature the historic Lafayette Boys cross country team including the Fab Four of Dylan Quisenberry, Alec Haines, Devin Meyrer, and Austin Hindman. Greg detailed the program and the foursome’s journey to national prominence under the tutelage of coaches Sean O’Connor, Steven Stallis, and Matt Warren: MO.MileSplit as well as Hindman’s historic 2017 State Track meet performance: MO.MileSplit.

Hall has told the stories of other historic athletes and moments including that of Chris Nilsen. At the 2016 Missouri Class 1-2 State Track and Field Championships in Jefferson City, I walked from the finish line toward the middle of the homestretch on the infield. Then MSHSAA assistant director and meet co-director Harvey Richards was walking the other way and turned and said Nilsen, the Kansas City native and Park Hill High School senior, had just cleared 18-4.75’’ in the pole vault to set the U.S. high school national record at a Class 5 Sectional meet in Kansas City. We knew it was possible as he had already set the state meet record the year before, broke the 30-year old Kansas Relays record six weeks before, and already cleared 18-0 that season. Greg was there to capture it all and tell of Nilsen’s journey: MO.MileSplit.

Even after Greg wasn’t actively contributing to Missouri MileSplit while still working on his own site and for another outlet in Kansas City, Greg was going above and beyond to shine a light on others. The week of the 2019 Class 3-4-5 State Track and Field Championships was a wild one as a tornado ripped through Jefferson City, damaging the Licklider Track Complex, leaving dozens homeless, and causing the meets to be held separately at three different locations. Greg didn’t make it to any of the meets, but immediately afterwards reached out to me asking about photos of Liberty senior Maddie Hill. Hill had beaten the race favorite and won the Class 5 1600-meter state title. Greg featured her accomplishment in a story, as she ran in honor of Hall of Fame Liberty coach Tim Nixon, who had passed away a year and a half before:

From Lawrence, Kansas, to Festus, Missouri, to Des Moines, Iowa, and many places in between, Greg Hall and I have spent many days together covering the sports, in and around cross country courses and track and field facilities. We spent many hours on the phone together discussing what we had seen and heard, while sharing thoughts on many things.

One of my favorite meets Greg and I covered was the 2018 Drake Relays. I called Greg leading up to the meet to see if he wanted to share a hotel room, but Greg had a place to stay in Des Moines. Brother Tim Hall had earned a track scholarship to Drake University decades before and was living in Iowa’s capitol city and at the time.

We had a great time over the course of a two-plus days. We got to see Des Moines area native and Mizzou senior national champion Karissa Schweizer set the meet record in the 5k and anchor the Tigers distance medley relay to victory in front of many of her family members, friends, and teammates. We also saw Iowa-born Jenny Simpson set the American 2-Mile record.

We sat and even lay on the turf to capture shots of then University of South Dakota sophomore Chris Nilsen, competing in the professional men’s pole vault competition. After the vault ended, I asked Greg and Chris to pose together for a photo, less than two years after Hall documented Nilsen’s historic journey to the high school national record. They put an arm around each other and smiled widely. That soon followed with an interview of Chris in the bowels of the old, historic stadium and discussed his performance and having to turndown a $1,500 third-place check to keep his college eligibility.

We also discovered the All-Time, All-Hair Team King. The Drake Relays is one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious track and field meets. It attracts the best Iowa high school track and field athletes, many of college’s best and a lot of the World’s best professional athletes. That year’s meet also included Para-athlete races that included many Paralympic competitors and medalists, like Missouri native David Browne, the blind Paralympic gold medalist and world record setting sprinter.

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After one of the races, Greg introduced himself to William “Regas” Woods, a double above-the-knee amputee who is a standout in the T-42 para classification. Greg visited with him and I’m sure told him about Greg’s All-Hair Team and how Regas would be atop any list of exquisite hair. I don’t even remember if Greg and I got to discuss Regas and what Greg said to him, as we were so busy, but nothing needed to be said. We had the ultimate ambassador in Regas, for Greg’s most famed way to acknowledge young people, still growing and figuring life out.

On his prosthetic leg blades, Woods stood about 5-6’’, but whatever he lacked in legs, leg muscles, and height, he made up for with upper body muscles. His arms were huge and sculpted, his chest broad and protruding. And he topped it all off with a sculpted, braided mane of hair that burst up and out his head and twisted and curved around itself like a collection of ram’s horns mingled together. Woods was a sight to see. His thin thighs tucked into carbon fiber molded tubes that attached to metal rods that connected to the curved blades that he stood on and ran on, while his massive chest almost, and his arms did explode out of his uniform, only to be upstaged by his glorious, powerful head of hair. Woods brings to mind images of a creature from Greek mythology, like a centaur or minotaur, only he was part Ram, part man, and part bionic.  

A year ago, I called or texted Greg to see if he was going to make it to Columbia from his office or newest residence in Leawood, Ks., for the Gans Creek Cross Country Course ribbon cutting ceremony and college races on Friday at the Gans Creek Classic before Saturday’s high school races. He said no, he would not be able to make it to the course Friday but would get to town Friday night and be there for Saturday’s races. With an afternoon commitment that Friday, it was going to be close for me to make it in time, but I planned on making the trip to Columbia from St. Louis in time for the ceremony and expected to fill Greg in on what he missed the following morning.

So when I arrived just before the highly anticipated course unveiling event and all of its pomp and circumstance, I was shocked to see Greg already there. We talked about how great the course looked and he mentioned he got to talk with Mizzou Athletic Director Jim Sterk about the project. We captured the event and the inaugural races in photos before heading off to rest and return in the morning.

Come to find out on social media, that not only had Greg made it to town in time for the afternoon’s events, but that he got there early and got a tour and some insight about the course from Columbia Parks and Recreation park planner Matt Boehner, the lead course designer. Following a great day of high school races Saturday, Greg wrote a great review of the Gans Creek facility: MO.MileSplit. I didn’t get my fill of the course that weekend and was a little jealous of Greg beating me to the course and his inside experience that I had to make a return trip the next Friday to see more of the course and talk with Boehner and Columbia Parks and Recreation Manager Erika Coffman, the Gans Creek Classic co-director.

Six weeks after the Gans Creek Classic, Greg and I were back in Columbia as Gans Creek hosted it’s first state cross country championship meet. After a long day of races, Greg headed home and I packed up alongside Brandon Daniels, a photographer, timer, and the co-founder of MO Runners Nation, the website that eventually joined the MileSplit network and became Missouri MileSplit. Just before finishing up, I saw and inspected a stepstool near the finish area. To my shock, it had a tag on it with Greg’s name. While I routinely take and use multiple folding stepstools with me to cross country meets, I’d never seen Greg with one in all these years. But here it was, leaning up against the finish line stanchion.

I finished packing up my stuff, then put the stepstool in Brandon’s car and we headed for Shakespeare’s Pizza for a long past-due lunch. I called Greg to let him know he had left the stepstool behind and that I was sending it back to Kansas City with Brandon. We talked about what a success the meet was at the new course as well as other happenings from the day including the many exciting performances and tight team battles. We also, like so often, traded opinions on what could be and should be changed to improve things. After arriving at, then standing in the Shakespeare’s parking lot talking to Greg on the phone for more than several minutes, I finally decided I’d better let him go so Brandon and I could eat. That was the last time I talked to Greg. Less than two months later, on January 2, 2020, Greg Hall passed away suddenly.

It’s been nine months since we lost Greg. While I’ve thought about him a lot in that time, I haven’t been able to bring myself to sit down and write any thoughts, feelings, or stories about him until now. I feel like Morgan Freeman’s character ‘Red’ in the classic 1994 movie “The Shawshank Redemption”, which was based on a Stephen King book. When wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 27-years, Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, disappears from his cell, his elaborate plan and the long, hard work needed to escape is discovered, with him long gone and free, like he always should have been. Though Red and friends remember Andy fondly and constantly tell stories of the unique character that positively impacted them while they were stuck behind bars, Red missed his friend.

“Sometimes it makes me sad though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright… I guess I just miss my friend.”

Greg Hall was a force. He left us too soon but had a better place to be and is running the trails of heaven, sharing stories with his sporting heroes, and lifting others up with his words and big grin. He had an infectious smile and kind, encouraging words for so many people.

Greg’s poem, “Baseball Is”, is magical description of the simple yet complicated American past time that so many of us grew up playing. Longtime Kansas City Royals announcer Fred White got many of baseball’s legendary voices to record an audio version that gives chills. Jack Buck, Bob Costas, and so many others. Vin Scully called Greg to apologize he couldn’t contribute because he didn’t own the rights to his own voice: GregHallKC

His “Cross Country Is…” is a must read for any current, former cross country runner, coach or family member: GregHallKC

While Greg loved sports and covering them and supporting athletes, he loved his family the most. As we stood on the infield at Lincoln University’s Dwight T. Reed Stadium on a Friday late afternoon or early evening, for one of the final State Track and Field Championships held there, we discussed that day’s performances, that were nearing an end, and the possibilities of the next day for individuals and teams. Despite the anticipated excitement and drama, Greg was not going to be there. It was his and wife Donna’s anniversary Saturday and he was headed home to celebrate.

Over the years we discussed Shannon’s running career and new job after college graduation, as he, like Greg began a job working in the health care technology and software industry. We also talked about Austin and being on the marching band. In my mind, cross country teams and marching bands are two groups that will always be linked. So often it was my cross country teammates and my classmates in the marching band up before most of the world at the break of dawn on August and Fall mornings, putting in work.

There were so many signs of Greg Saturday at Gans Creek aside from the groundbreaking ceremony and his family and friends who were there to see it. After searching and searching for a small bag of equipment that eventually turned up where it was supposed to be, though hiding, I made it to Gans Creek late and missed the first race of ten Saturday. But it didn’t take long for signs of Greg to pop up. Lafayette County’s Logan Cunningham and Charles Grumke charged their way down the finish stretch to 20th and 21st place finishes in the White Division race, the second of the day. Lafayette County is home to the Huskers, the school’s mascot and team names. The blue and yellow uniforms of Lafayette County simply say “Husker” across the chest, Greg Hall’s radio nickname.

Ten minutes before heading to the finish line to the groundbreaking ceremony in the early afternoon, I looked up and shot a few photos of one of the last Green Division female runners. Her hair was braided with the ends colored blue. They bounced around as she crossed the finish line. She was definitely deserving of All-Hair Team recognition.

After the groundbreaking ceremony ended and I visited with Greg’s family, I hustled back to the finish line to shoot runners wrapping up the purple division girl’s race. After nearly all the athletes had finished, I left the finish area and headed back towards the rest of the course to shoot the final race of the day. As I did, I looked up and who was rounding the bend and heading down the homestretch? Avery Anderson, the Battle High runner who, like Greg’s Drake Relays friend and All-Hair Team King William “Regas” Woods, is a double leg amputee, who Greg featured a year before. Anderson grinded away toward the finish, with a touch of pink in her blonde hair. #All-HairTeam.

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Greg Hall was there at Gans Creek Saturday and I saw the signs. And soon, he’ll always be there in spirit and more. Not only will the best teams and runners in the state will be honored at the champions plaza named in his honor, but so too will many of the country’s top collegians as Gans Creek will undoubtedly be host to future NCAA Division I and NAIA Cross Country National Championships. 

While I miss my friend, just like Red missed Andy in The Shawshank Redemption, I look forward to the day I see him again. Greg Hall is still here in spirit, and someday I’ll see him again, just like Red saw Andy after he was released from prison and joined him on the beach in Zihuatanejo.


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