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Spirited, candy-eating heptathlete Anna Hall has world title on mind and world record in sight


AP Sports Writer

Heptathlete Anna Hall isn’t one to hold back her emotions. Those grimaces or dances reveal her precise thoughts about a particular jump, throw or run.

She’s an open book, too — with her journal. The reigning world bronze medalist encourages her coaches to scan her entries for insight into her workout mindset (the doodles happen to be a nice bonus).

The fun-loving, candy-chomping 22-year-old from Colorado who labels herself a “big goofball” is emerging as the next big name in track and field. She might even be the one to break Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s nearly 35-year-old world heptathlon record.

“What I see are all the tools to rewrite the record books,” Joyner-Kersee said in a phone interview on the eve of the U.S. championships that start Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. “You’re seeing greatness in motion without even knowing the greatness is before you, because of her natural ability. When you see Anna compete, she competes with joy.”

She may even have with her a package of Nerds Gummy Clusters, her candy of choice for an energy boost in between the seven events spread over two days of competition. For sure she will be clowning around with her coaches, family, fans in the stands and her competitors.

Just Hall being Hall.

“I feel like the way that I compete in a multi-event is a little bit unorthodox,” said Hall, whose pre-competition routine includes drinking grape juice for good luck. “I’m bouncing around between every event and dancing. I’m trying to be loose and just trying to enjoy it.”

Each season, Hall scribbles goals on sticky notes and posts them all over her mirror. That way, they’re constantly seen.

Last year, one of her goals was earning a podium spot at world championships in Eugene. She did just that by taking home a bronze medal in the event won by Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam.

About this season’s sticky-note goals on her mirror: “Top secret,” she said.

But they’re not too hard to decipher. Make the U.S. team for worlds — the top three earn spots — and she would be among the favorites next month in Budapest, Hungary. An American woman hasn’t won the heptathlon title at worlds since Joyner-Kersee in 1993.

And yes, Joyner-Kersee’s world record is very much on Hall’s mind. Joyner-Kersee set the mark of 7,291 points in taking home gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It’s a performance Hall has watched over and over again.

Really, though, that’s a quest for down the road. Hall’s concentration is simply on her events Thursday, which include 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put and the 200. Day 2 on Friday is the long jump, javelin and finally the 800, which is simultaneously her favorite and least favorite event.

“It’s not so much about chasing a giant score,” Hall explained. “We’re just using this as a stepping stone so we can get right back to training for worlds.”

Hall’s in peak form, recording a career-best score of 6,988 points on May 28 in Götzis, Austria. That performance moved her to No. 5 on the women’s all-time world list.

That performance also was enough to convince her team to put her plans for the 400-meter hurdles on hold, an event she was hoping to run at nationals.

“I love the hurdles but my coaches ultimately decided that we have a real shot at winning (at worlds),” explained Hall, whose father, David, was a quarterback at Michigan along with playing basketball and being a decathlete. “So it would be taking that for granted to not put all of our eggs in that basket and go for that.”

Hall has a bittersweet history with Hayward Field.

The sweet — that bronze at worlds last summer on the famed Oregon track.

The bitter — hitting a hurdle at the 2021 Olympic trials before the Tokyo Games and breaking a bone in her left foot (her jump foot). She had a screw put in and was sidelined for 12 weeks.

It took an emotional toll, too.

“There’s an added level of fear of, ‘OK, I’m supposed to stick this foot as hard as I can into the ground and jump off of it,’” explained Hall, who went to the University of Georgia before transferring to Florida and setting several school records. “But there’s a screw in there and it hurts and it swells sometimes after practice and it doesn’t feel normal. So yeah, that was very difficult.”

To help ease the anxiety, she visited a sports psychologist. It helped.

Hall returned to Hayward Field last spring to compete with the Gators at the NCAA championships.

Instant flashbacks.

“When we were walking up, I was like, ‘Guys, I have PTSD from this place,’” said Hall, who turned pro last August and signed a deal with Adidas. “I was like, ‘Over there, that’s where they wheeled me off and I found out my ankle was destroyed.’ So yeah, there was a little bit of overcoming that.”

She made peace with the track by winning the NCAA heptathlon title. That relieved any sort of pressure going into worlds and allowed her to capture bronze.

In the stadium at worlds was Joyner-Kersee, who’s gotten the chance to know Hall and her family. She believes gold is in Hall’s future.

That world record, too.

“I’ve watched many multi-eventers over the years. But I have not seen one like Anna,” Joyner-Kersee said. “There’s no give-up in her. She reminds me of myself.”


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