Jeff Hale spent part of his Thursday morning going over the track at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, NC, site of this year’s NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships. He found a flat, fast track that he anticipates will make the most competitive 5,000 meter race he’s ever been a part of even more intense.

Hale, a Colby College senior and Waterville native, will take the starting line at 5:50 p.m. Friday for the championship race. He is one of two members of the Mules’ indoor track team to reach nationals, joined by sophomore Brian Sommers, who will compete in the 400-meter dash on Friday.

Nothing about Hale’s first impressions of the track changed his game-plan for Friday’s race. Not surprisingly, it’s pretty much the same blueprint that got him to nationals.

“I just want to get off the line well and establish myself somewhere in the middle or front of the pack early,” he said. “Maybe I can just tuck in early and hopefully I’ll have something left in the tank for the last mile or so.”

Hale has followed that formula to steady progress over the course of the season and it has him peaking when the races matter most. He won the state 3,000 title and finished second in the mile, then beat the top collegiate distance runners in New England — Division I, II and III runners — at the Open Men’s New England Track and Field Championships at Boston University with his PR time of 14:25.81.

“Regardless of what happens, it’s been a phenomenal indoor season,” said Hale, who also was second in New England Division III in the 3,000. “Just getting here was my goal and a big accomplishment. Anything else is icing on the cake.”

Nevertheless, he is determined to make the most of this opportunity. He noted that he has one more shot at the 32-year-old school record of 14:24.7. He is seeded 10th in a field that doesn’t have a lot of experience at nationals.

While this is his first NCAA indoor final, Hale has raced in the last two cross country national championships (finishing seventh last year) and thinks that experience can help him adjust to the level of competition and the logistics of competing in such a big meet.

“I think it definitely helps getting to realize how good the competition is and kind of know what I’m up against,” he said. “It’s also good to know in terms of travel. It’s not like going to Bates or Bowdoin for a dual meet.”

But nothing prepared him better for Friday than the training regimen head coach Jared Beers devised and the inspiration provided by teammates such as Charlie Coffman, Tom Berry and David Chelimo.

“I’ve had good, consistent training. The workouts we’ve done in practice have gone really well,” he said. “I train with a few guys in workouts who have been really great at pushing me.”

Hale has enjoyed a reunion with his former Waterville High School coach, Ian Wilson, who is in his first year as a Colby assistant. Although Wilson doesn’t coach him directly, the two do talk regularly after he races and Wilson ordered some lucky ceramic spikes he wore for his New Englands run.

Perhaps the most valuable coaching advice he’s received for Friday’s race has come from Beers — expect the arena to be loud and not to worry about hearing his splits or watching the clock.

“I’m feeling pretty good going in,” Hale said. “I’m a little bit nervous. Fortunately, I’ve had really steady progress over the course of the season and I’ve been running faster each race.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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