UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – ‘Two scoops of versatility’ best describes Anna Hall

The annual Bowerman Award is collegiate track and field’s equivalent of college football’s Heisman Trophy. There’s no bigger honor in the sport.

And Anna Hall, a former Colorado high school state champion from Greenwood Village, is one of the three finalists for the 2022 women’s Bowerman. 

Hall represents the University of Florida. The others are Abby Steiner, a record-setting sprinter from the University of Kentucky, and Camryn Rogers, Cal Berkeley’s first-ever Bowerman finalist, who owns eight of the top 10 distances in NCAA history in the hammer throw.

Named for renowned University of Oregon coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, who died in 1999, the award will be presented for the 13th time on December 15 to the women’s and men’s athlete, respectively, voted most outstanding in the nation for the year 2022 by a large panel referred to as The Bowerman Voters.

The gala will take place at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center near Denver International Airport.

As the reigning NCAA champion in the heptathlon and key contributor to Florida’s Southeastern Conference and NCAA national team championships, Hall is a strong contender to win the Bowerman Award. 

The heptathlon is comprised of seven events contested over two days: 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter sprint, long jump, javelin and 800 meters. It is considered the women’s version of the men’s decathlon, the ultimate all-around test.

“I’ve always looked up to the people who were nominated for it and the people who won it,” Hall said, “so to be included in that group is super, super exciting.”

If she takes home the Bowerman, Hall will be Colorado’s second winner, though first native. CU Boulder distance runner Jenny Barringer (now Simpson), twice the NCAA champion in another grueling event, the 3,000-meter steeplechase, was the inaugural honoree in 2009.

The way Anna Hall sees it, choosing either her, the NCAA heptathlon champion, or one of the other two finalists, one a hammer-thrower and the other a sprinter, for the 2022 women’s Bowerman Award is akin to deciding between two flavors of ice cream that you know are both delicious.

“It’s comparing being more versatile than most,” she says, “to just being better than most, as these girls are in their events. It’s a tough choice.”

I favor two scoops of versatility. 

Anna Hall in the long jump at the World Track Championships

Whether she’s voted the best female track athlete in the whole nation for 2022, or not, the third daughter of former Rose Bowl quarterback Dave Hall and his wife Ronette clearly is an elite competitor whose exploits merit recognition locally and across Colorado.

In her proud mother’s view, it was obvious that Anna had inherited unusual physical gifts almost as soon as she could walk.

She was skiing at age three, and riding her first bike without training wheels before kindergarten. 

By middle school at Kent Denver, Anna was playing field hockey and lacrosse, and swimming for her neighborhood pool team in the summer.

But she was best at track, especially once she learned what it takes.

“When I first started track, I won a lot,” she says, “because nobody does track when you’re, like, seven. I got to 11 or 12, and there were a lot more kids, and I started to lose. And I started to get mad about it.

“That’s when I realized,” she continues, “that, ‘Oh, you have to practice to win. You don’t just show up and win’—like I’d always done.

“That’s when the switch flipped for me and I started training hard. Well, hard for a 12-year-old. A few years after that, I started winning, a lot, again. That’s when I realized, ‘Okay, track works this way: the work you put in is the results you get out.’”

Anna started high school at Arapahoe but switched to Valor Christian for her sophomore year. She won state championships for both, along with being a National Honor Society student.

“I did high jump and the 1,500,” she says, “so I was a jumper and a middle-distance runner, which isn’t normal. I said, ‘I’m going to be the first to win both,’ and everyone said, ‘It doesn’t work like that.’ I never really stopped doing either, and then I found the multi and I could keep doing everything I wanted to do.

“It’s really challenging . . . but rewarding at the same time. Most track athletes, on a typical day, I would say, practice outside for two or three hours then lift for one or two hours. But multis will practice two or three hours in the morning and two or three hours in the afternoon, then lift, as well. 

“It just takes a lot more time because you’re trying to build up technical mastery in seven different things.  You have to be fit for the running, explosive for the jumps . . .”

David Hall, managing director at Alvarez and Marsal, a business management consulting firm in Denver, was a three-sport letterman at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s, passing for two touchdowns against UCLA in the January 1 (1983) football classic in Pasadena.

Besides playing football for legendary Bo Schembechler, he competed in the 10-event decathlon—track’s most demanding multi-event specialty—and, when injuries and other attrition so depleted Bill Frieder’s basketball roster that reinforcements were called for, he played some off guard and small forward.

“In track, the most important thing is what you do in fall training,” Anna says.  “So, I can’t believe he did the decathlon, and played football, all fall. That, to me, is just the craziest thing.” 

That versatility helps explain the prowess of his daughter in the seven-event heptathlon, which includes the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin throw and 800-meter run.

“My dad and I are very much alike, very close,” she says, explaining, also, her choice of a college major. “Both of us are really good at math. I think that’s what kind of drew me toward finance—‘Okay, that’s something I can apply (math) to and talk about with him.’”

Anna’s older sisters, Julia and Kara, both attended Michigan and competed in the Big Ten, Julia running track and Kara playing tennis. (Her younger sister, Lauryn, is still in high school.)

But Anna resisted all that family tradition, choosing Georgia instead—pointing out that, “I’ve always been a little independent”—then transferring to Florida after two eventful years.

She chose Georgia, from numerous college offers, because of coach Petros Kyprianou. 

“I told myself, ‘That’s the guy who can take me from college to the Olympics. But my sophomore year, he decided he was leaving to start a pro training group in Jacksonville.”

She could have stayed in Athens (Georgia, not Greece), but opted for Florida rather than risk a total unknown in Kyprianou’s successor.

“In the recruiting process, people at Florida, you could tell, were just genuine, good people, first, and they loved track and field. So, in my mind, I’m in a place where people love the sport, and the coaches are willing to put in extra time. 

“It felt like the safest decision, which probably isn’t a very good reason. But when I got there, it surpassed all my hopes. It’s been amazing.”

It was more than a geographic change, she quickly learned.

“It was two very different training styles,” she explains. “At Georgia, I had one coach for all events; at Florida, a different coach for each event. It turned out to be a positive.”

It was at the 2021 Olympic Trials at the University of Oregon—as she was preparing to move to the University of Florida—that Hall suffered a career-threatening injury when she clipped a hurdle in heptathlon qualifying and broke her left foot.

She had surgery in July, doctors inserting a screw that she still has today, and wasn’t cleared even to walk until October. Swimming, her athletic mother’s sport in high school, became a part of her recovery. It was so beneficial that it’s now a part of the training routine at Florida, not only for her but for all members of the track team.

In her first indoor season at Florida, Anna compiled the fourth-highest pentathlon total in NCAA history in the Southeastern Conference championships. At the Texas Relays, which opened the outdoor season, she broke legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s 39-year-old record in the heptathlon by 22 points, then won her first NCAA national title.

Competing at the 2022 World Track and Field Championships at the University Oregon in July—at the site of her horrific injury a year earlier—she overcame her understandable apprehension about her repaired foot to win the bronze medal, finishing behind only Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela and Shanieka Ricketts of Jamaica.

Having won more championships than she can remember as an amateur, Anna Hall will compete professionally next year. Under contract with Addidas, her first pro meet will be in Austria next May. She’ll return stateside after a few weeks and will compete in the USA Championships in July. Then she’ll go back to Europe for the Worlds in Budapest in August.

Her immediate goal is to exceed 7,000 points in the heptathlon. (Her personal best currently is 6,755.) After that, she has her sights set on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 14 books, eight of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at denny
dressman@comcast.net.