It was always about the long trip home.
That’s the way Hannah Hall talks about her rise to becoming the strongest girl in Texas.
That’s what she calls herself today after taking home the Gold Medal and winning the Class 1A state title powerlifting title in the 220-pound weight class.
“It’s great to be known as the strongest girl in Texas,’’ Hall said with a huge smile this week after she returned to Kerens High School from the state meet in Corpus Christi — her final ride home on a ride of a lifetime.
There was that first ride home was when she was a sophomore at the regional meet in Canton. She just missed qualifying for the state meet. Hall tied for first place as the top 1A girl in the region, but the other girl advanced to state because she weighed less.
“I cried all the way home,’’ Hall said. “I was really upset and couldn’t stop crying. I’ll never forget that ride home.’’
Hall made it to the state meet last year as a junior and finished third in the state, and this time the ride home was inspirational.
“All I could think about was I knew I had to go back and get the gold,’’ Hall said. “That’s all I thought about on the ride back from Corpus Christi last year — I just kept thinking I’ve got to come back and win it. It was like the (Kerens girls) basketball team said when they went to the state tournament. I felt it was unfinished business. I just knew that I would do whatever I had to do to go back and win the gold.’’
She promised herself and her coach that she would return this year as a senior.
“When we stopped to eat I was sitting at the table and I told my coach, ‘I’m coming back next year and I’m coming back to finish it.’ I meant it,’’ Hall said. “I remember riding home and that’s all I could think about the whole way home.’’
She kept her promise.
This year Hall didn’t ride home, she floated — floated right off the stage, where she won her medal for winning the state title, and floated all the way back to Kerens.
“I was on Cloud 9,’’ she said. “When I won it, I felt like I was on top of the world. It’s one of those things you just can’t describe.’’
The ride to the top was a long one, and Hall had two coaches help her get there. Adam Schmidtke was her first coach, and the one she made the promise to that she would return and win the title. He left Kerens last year and Clay Ard became the new powerlifting coach.
Hall told her new coach all about her goal and what she wanted to do.
“I knew she was serious from the first conversation we had,’’ Ard said. “I told her if this is what you want then this is what we will get. Kids tell you all the time that their goal is to be a state champion. But it was different with her. She had a very serious attitude. She was determined. I knew right away that she was serious.’’
Ard developed a tough workout regime and Hall even had another girl help her along the way. Lauren Sherrard, who became her assistant and helped push Hall — who didn’t need much pushing at all.
“Lauren was her workout buddy,’’ Ard said. “She did her job. She was a true assistant.’’
Hall simple wouldn’t let anything get in her way.
“She never complained. She had a great attitude and worked hard from the first day,’’ Ard said. “She was just a different kid. You couldn’t ask for a better kid.’’
Hall lost weight, dropping from 230 to 211, which put her in the 220-pound weight class. She just kept getting stronger and as the regular season wore down it was clear that she was lifting more weight than anyone in her weight class.
“I had a really good idea what was going on after the Malakoff meet during the last week of the football season,’’ Ard said. “She got stronger and stronger and she was outlifting everyone else in the state by 75 to 100 pounds.’’
Then the wrinkle popped up before the postseason started. The defending state champ, Karlee Lyon from Center Point, who had been lifting in the 220-plus pound weight class, dropped down to the 220-weight class.
Ard knew Lyon would be tough to beat at the state meet, but he never told Hall that Lyon was the defending state champ. He just told Hall that she needed to beat her.
“We went head-to-head with her, and Hannah beat her,’’ Ard said.
There are three lifts — bench-press, squat and deadlift — and the total weight of the three lifts determines who wins. As a junior, Hall’s total at the state meet was 745 pounds.
This time, she lifted the world off her back along with the 875 pounds she powered up to win it all. Lyon finished second with 840 pounds. Third-place (795) and fourth (755) weren’t even in the same ballpark. Hall demolished everyone with a bench-press of 165, a squat of 350, and she deadlifted 360 pounds.
She was so determined, she lifted three years of waiting off her shoulders, and has been smiling since.
Hall is an incredible young lady, so bright and funny and versatile. Her discipline and determination in powerlifting is just the tip of the iceberg, because she is multi-talented.
She plays on the volleyball and softball teams, plans to qualify in the state track & field meet in both the shot put and the discus, and she also plays the clarinet for Kerens’ award winning band, and is part of the flag corps as well. And somehow with all of that going on and a march to the state tile, Hall has managed to become an honor student and carries a 3.45 GPA along with the 875 pounds she lifted at the state meet — the rarest of combos.
It was her sheer determination that brought home the gold.
“Everything was different this year,’’ Hall said. “Last year I worked hard but I didn’t give it my all. It was my fault. I guess I just wanted it so bad this year. I guess I was just hungry for it.’’
Ard gets a lot of credit.
“He had a different way of doing things,’’ Hall said. “He made sure I did everything. He stayed on me.’’
Hall’s journey to the powerlifting state title started when she was 10.
“I walked into the old Kerens gym and they were setting up for a powerlifting meet,’’ Hall said. “I didn’t know what it was. But I stood there and looked at all the racks and the weights and all the lights. I don’t know, I was just fascinated by it. It was like opening door for me, a whole new beginning. I knew I wanted to do it.
“My freshmen year I heard on the intercom that anyone who wanted to come out for the powerlifting team should come to the weight room at 3:30. I went there and I remember the first thing Coach Schmidtke told us was that powerlifting is more mental than physical.’’
That was Hall’s real strength — her mental toughness and an unrelenting desire to climb to the top, to win it all, to take home the gold,
She wore the medal around her neck all the way home from Corpus Christi — the final ride to a ride of a lifetime.
It was always about the long trip home.
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