Chugiak track stars sign on to college programs
Many coaches develop a strong parental bond with their athletes, and Melissa Hall is no different.
“These two are like kids to me,” the Chugiak High track and field coach said during a National Letter of Intent signing for two of her athletes in the CHS library last month.
The audience giggled. That’s because one of the runners sitting in front of Hall was her daughter, Chugiak sprinter Reilly Hall.
“They’re laughing because one of them literally is my kid,” Hall said. “We fight and we bicker but I love her to death.”
Chugiak’s tight-knit team was key to its success this season, and that closeness was evident at the signing for sprinter Hall and distance runner Daniel Bausch in May, as well as a ceremony held for sprinter Jeremiah Wilson this month.
Coach Hall said she and the Chugiak coaching staff asked a lot of their athletes this year and it paid off in a state title for the Chugiak boys and a third-place state finish for the CHS girls.
“It all comes from a place of love,” Hall said. “We want to see them do great, and they have.”
Bausch and Wilson were the stars of Chugiak’s juggernaut team this season, with the former winning state titles in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters and the latter breaking the Chugiak school record in the 100 meter dash. Bausch will run track and cross country at Division I Utah Valley University next season, while Wilson signed with Division II Colorado Mesa University.
Bausch had one of the greatest seasons in Alaska distance running history, claiming a Division I state cross-country title and the Gatorade Cross Country Athlete of the Year award in the fall before going on to finish 16th at the Foot Locker Nationals in December and leading the Mustangs to a state title in the spring.
Though he was the unquestioned king of Alaska prep distance running this season, Bausch said he’s actually looking forward to losing.
“I’m really excited. Being with a team where at least half the guys are going to be faster than me, hopefully I’ll improve a lot,” he said.
Bausch is hoping his career takes off in more ways than one in Utah — he’s planning to study aviation and wants to be a test pilot.
“I’m going to be really busy,” he said.
While Bausch was the superstar, it was Wilson who held the Chugiak team together this season, Hall said. He won the team’s Most Inspirational Award and was the leading point-winner for a squad that won three of the most coveted trophies in Alaska track this season by sweeping the Palmer Relays, the Cook Inlet Conference and the state Division I meets.
“We can easily say he was our largest point-getter at all these meets,” Hall said during Wilson’s signing ceremony June 10.
Wilson finished second at state in the 100 and 200 meters (he lost to the record-setting Colton Herman of East in both) and ran anchor on the Mustangs’s winning 4x100- and 4x200-meter relays — breaking the school record in the 4x100. His time of 10.95 seconds at a meet in Oregon this spring broke the CHS record of 10.99 set in 2016 by Dillon Pratt.
Ironically, Wilson — a standout running back and defensive back for the Chugiak football team — said he never gave track much thought until late in his high school career.
“I didn’t see myself as a track athlete until my junior year,” he said.
Once he realized track might be his ticket to college, Wilson said he embraced the sport.
“I thought, ‘How far can I go with this?’ ” he said.
Turns out, all the way to Grand Junction, Colorado, where he’ll study kinesiology in hopes of becoming a physical therapist.
“I’ve heard it’s a great campus,” said Wilson, who plans on visiting the school this week. “I’ve been talking to coach (Tim) Reetz and our energy is just totally matching.”
Reilly Hall’s path to Grand Junction might seem like it was the most obvious (her brother, Roan, is a member of the school’s nordic skiing team), but it may have been the most unlikely. Before the season, Hall said she was running 400 meter times in the 67-second range — about 6-7 seconds slower than what coaches told her she needed to be running to have a shot at going to the next level.
“It was a lot,” she said.
But Hall went to work and she didn’t stop, tirelessly working on technique with coaches like Chugiak assistant Luke Steele and DeWayne Ingraham of Alaska Peak Performance, and relentlessly working to get stronger.
“A lot of weight training was the biggest thing that helped me,” said Hall, who ran a personal-best 60.87 seconds at the CIC meet and finished fifth at state in the 200 meters and seventh in the 400.
Hall said this season’s rapid progression shocked even her.
“The last couple meets have been really crazy for me because I’ve been in these really fast heats,” she said.
Hall said she was initially reluctant to go to the same school as her brother, but the school actually turned out to be perfect for the aspiring nurse.
“It actually turned out to be a better fit for me,” she said. “And I love my brother, so I’m glad he’s there too.”
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274