Bella Hall of Port Alberni made the best throw of her career at the Bell National Track and Field championships on June 25, and won a national title in hammer throw.
This was the first time Hall had been to a senior under-20 national championship, her coach Darren Willis said. She is the first Alberni Valley Track Club athlete since the 1990s to win an Under-20 national title.
“It was pretty special to watch.”
Willis took Hall to the stadium in Langley three days before her competition and she was throwing “really well” in some of her practice sessions.
On Saturday, competition day, Hall made the Top 8; she threw six throws and they all counted. “I went into competition really nervous but knowing I could do well,” said Hall. “I was so nervous my legs were shaking.”
Her best throw midway through the morning was 52.41 metres. Her fifth of the day was 52.57m. “Until my last throw I was only 50 centimetres ahead of this one girl. With my last throw I got more than three metres on her.”
Hall’s final throw was 55.18, a personal best this season—and a gold medal-winning performance. Zayna Fray-Samuel of Toronto, Ontario finished second with her best throw of 52.01m.
“That last throw was quite a big jump,” said Hall’s mother Jessica, who accompanied her daughter to the nationals.
The coronavirus complicated Bella Hall’s year, Willis said. She contracted COVID-19 in early February and lost nearly three months of training as she recovered. “We didn’t know if she was going to be able to throw this far this year. To her it felt more legitimate to throw that distance and win.”
“I was really sick,” Hall said, adding that she was tired “most of the time.” She still went into the nationals with a winning mindset.
“I really just wanted to win. After those practices I was feeling really, really good.”
Because she went to the nationals a few days early to get acclimated to the stadium, Hall missed her high school graduation ceremony back in Port Alberni. She was on hand the preceding week though, where she accepted numerous scholarships and bursaries at the Alberni District Secondary School scholarship awards night.
She did make it back to Port Alberni in time to attend her Grade 12 prom; she stayed at the nationals long enough to receive her gold medal then hurried to catch a ferry back to Vancouver Island, then home.
Hall has committed to the University of B.C. where she will pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. She will also throw for the track and field team.
Her throwing season isn’t finished yet: in another week she will head to the B.C. provincial championships (which happen after the nationals this year due to timing of world championships). If she wins a B.C. title she could make Team Canada, or qualify to go to the world track and field championships in Colombia in August.
Willis, meanwhile, has been named B.C. throws coach for the national Legion championships (14–18 years) taking place in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in August.
Both Hall and Willis participated in an Olympic-calibre throws meet in Port Alberni in 2021. From that meet, says Jessica Hall, there is one national champion (Bella Hall), an Olympic gold medalist and two athletes heading to the Commonwealth Games.