Will Hallberg’s gaze is fixed on the jump pit near the track. He paces around and takes in the sight of the sand and understands what must be done.
He says he feels neither angst nor assurance inside, only focus and technique fills his mind. He calmly talks to the jumpers he’s competing against and asks them how their seasons are going and where they’re heading.
He then paces some more. Finally, once his name is called, he jumps. And then he wins.
For senior Hallberg, track and field comes to him as naturally as breathing.
After winning his second district title in two years, breaking his own previously set meet record, Hallberg headed to the state championships this past week for the second straight year.
After doing middle school track for two years, Hallberg took his freshman season off and then decided to return to the team the following season. One year later, Hallberg earned two state medals at the Washington 2A State Championships in Tacoma, one of which was a first-place finish. In both events that Hallberg qualified for in the state championships last spring, he finished in the top eight.
Hallberg won the title in the triple jump and placed sixth in the long jump.
“When I started my sophomore year, I was a bit skeptical whether I would be able to jump like I could in middle school,” he said.
“My first meet in high school, I set my personal record at about 20 feet, so from that point on I became very dedicated. And as a junior I really wanted to better myself. After missing state by a few inches, it gave me the determination to work harder.”
Hallberg hasn’t changed his mindset or his progress this spring of his senior year, as he has yet to take anything less then first place after 11 meets this year. But, Hallberg understands finishing first in 11 out of 11 track meets won’t necessarily improve his state rankings.
The one to beat
Hallberg finished the season as the second-ranked triple jumper behind Renton’s PJ Benedictus.
Hallberg spoke of the ups and downs of Benedictus, whose school was moved from 3A to the 2A classification for the 2011 season, and his impact on Hallberg’s preparation in meets.
“He gets in my head.” continued Hallberg, “‘I’m definitely worried about him beating me. He’s a get-in-your-face kind of guy, so he’ll definitely bring the best out of me when the time comes.”
Hallberg also found himself ranked third in the long jump, but within 5 inches of each of the two jumpers ahead of him in the rankings.
“In long jump, I don’t feel a lot of pressure. I’m doing better in it this year compared to my triple right now. It’s just a really fun event for me.”
Having fun, being loose and not being over confident is Hallberg’s goal, but it also may be his nature.
“My personality in general just isn’t very loud. Other jumpers are pretty loud about when they do well. They feel like if they’re good they need to talk about it.
“But for me, I just hang out and talk to the other jumpers just like I’m friends with them. Then I jump.”
Hallberg also participates occasionally in the 100-meter event, something new that he only sparingly did in previous years.
His best run was 11.34, which ranked him third in the Cascade Conference finals.
“I would have done the 100 more, but I felt like I needed to save my legs for the triple and long jump. It’s definitely fun, though.”
Tall, calm and cool
Outside of track and field, Hallberg doesn’t stray far from his adrenaline-packed jumping and running events. He enjoys board sports such as skimboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding.
Being 6-foot-6 has its perks, in all of the events that he participates in.
“I’m tall, so naturally I’m going to have a good long stride,” he said.
Craig Stelling, one of the throwing coaches at South Whidbey, took note of Hallberg’s physique as well.
As Hallberg sits close behind in the rankings and is projected to not return and reclaim his title, he believes that may give him the edge to win.
“At small meets I can look at the standings and be confident that I’m going to win. If it’s a big meet,
I get worried about the jumping, but then once my adrenaline kicks in it helps me jump further then I normally would,” Hallberg said.
Hallberg’s calm demeanor and cool concentration are his strong points and of course, so are his legs.
“Jumping kind of gives me that adrenaline rush, because when I know I’m going to jump far, I usually hear the crowd give that audible ‘whoa.’ And after that, my second jump is almost always the farthest.”
His accolades and achievements also sit well in school history; he holds the school record for triple jump and is only six inches away from the long-jump record. His motivation in previous years derives from Jon Poolman, who graduated last year after winning a state title in the 400-meter run.
“Jon (Poolman) really motivated me last year. We had the drive to be successful and we wanted to be. This year it’s been mostly just pushing myself,” he said.
Hallberg also credited coaches Stelling, as well as Mark Eager and Chad Felgar for refining his jumping technique and providing him with workouts to achieve his stature as a successful jumper.
Stelling himself took note of Hallberg’s unique ability to film and review his previous jumps, to make his next one even better.
“Will is a strong performer and he’s basically his own coach. He films himself and then sends it to other people that respond with critiques and ways to improve,” Stelling said.
Hallberg also tries to model himself after other top performers, such as Phillips Idowu.
“I really look up to Phillips Idowu. He can jump 50-plus feet, and I’ve been trying to replicate his jumps.”
He also spoke of the support he receives from his parents and other family members.
“My parents are totally supportive throughout all of this. They’ve been to almost every single meet. At the last district meet I had my whole core family there. It was great,” he said.
Just one jump away
At the state championships at Mount Tahoma High School, things unfortunately did not go according to plan.
Hallberg placed seventh in the long jump with a jump of 21 feet, after succumbing to a hamstring pull on his last jump, sending him out of the competition and spelling the end to his season.
“I pulled one of the three muscles in my hamstrings,” Hallberg said. “I did 40-50 minutes of warm-up to get up to sprinting level for the triple jump, but I couldn’t even do that. It just wasn’t good.” Placing first in the long jump ahead of Hallberg was Lakewood’s senior Andre Scott, with a jump of 22 feet, 5 inches.
Hallberg was glad to see Scott win the meet.
“I told him I wanted either me or him to win it all, and he did, so I was happy for him,” Hallberg said.
Hallberg felt that his last jump could have potentially won the entire meet.
“My last jump was really good, but because I pulled my hamstring (on takeoff) I started flailing in the air. Even with the pull, I still went 21 feet, and had I not been hurt it could have won the meet.”
Hallberg pulled out of the meet before entering into the prelims of the triple jump, and the eventual victor was Benedictus, his season-long nemesis.
Looking back, Hallberg thought that his season had its ups and downs, but mostly ups.
“Last year was great, I was more than excited about my performance at state. This year it wasn’t quite as exciting, but I still think I did pretty darn good overall, especially in the long jump.”