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Southern Section Cross-Country Championships : DOUBLE WINNER : Ken Hall Battles His Addictions, Competition to Come Out on Top

November 16, 1986|LISA DILLMAN

It seemed fitting that on the same day Ken Hall received tangible evidence that he had successfully escaped his problems--ones he had run away from for years--he came up with another significant accomplishment by running to a berth in the Southern Section cross-country final.

He had qualified for the boys' 4-A final by finishing third in his heat last Saturday in the preliminaries at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut. Then, after checking his time and filling out the necessary paperwork, he was driven by his coaches to Santa Ana for an important ceremony.

After 33 months, Ken Hall was graduating from Phoenix House, a drug rehabilitation program where he had spent the second half of his freshman year and his entire sophomore year--16 months total--on a live-in basis at the Santa Ana center.

"That's why no one knows about me," the San Clemente High School senior said Saturday after finishing fifth in the final at Mt. SAC with a time of 15 minutes 45 seconds.

Hall only began competing in cross-country last year, and because he holds two jobs, he has been unable to run in most of the prestigious invitationals, races that might have gained him earlier recognition.

"Since I had never been in competition, I didn't know what it was like," he said. "Last year, I made up my mind I wanted to do well."

San Clemente Coach Bill Hartman said: "I felt he could be a very good runner because he's so tough mentally. I felt he could win it (Saturday's race) because he has such a burning desire to succeed. He doesn't know that, though. I think he is going to get better because he is not afraid to work hard. . . . He's learning you have to have some goals in life."

It wasn't that way for Hall in junior high school. By the time he was an eighth-grader, Hall was taking drugs such as cocaine, LSD, marijuana, pills and alcohol, he said.

"There was a lot of peer pressure to start," he said. "But then I became addicted and started doing it by myself."

He knew he had a problem but was unwilling to take action. Finally, his mother made the decision that he should seek help at Phoenix House.

According to Hall, the program is one of Southern California's most difficult, tougher than a hospital setting because the patients must do almost everything on their own, including cooking meals for the group.

During the program, Hall started running 5 1/2 miles a day. It helped to ease the stress. He continued to train during the last five months before returning to high school.

"It helped me out and boosted my confidence to where I thought I was something," he said. "I used to think I wasn't worth anything."

And until recently, Hall wasn't even confident about his running ability. It was Hartman who believed he was coaching a talented runner, though the results were not readily apparent. The turning point came about two weeks ago in the South Coast League final, where Hall won by 12 seconds.

"He was starting to think, 'Hey, I'm not bad,' " Hartman said.

Now that the cross-country season has concluded, a search for a college begins. Cornell University in New York is one possibility for Hall, who has a 3.5 grade-point average.

In the meantime, there is the short-term goal of qualifying for the upcoming Kinney National High School cross-country meet in San Diego and the long-term goal of reaching the two-mile race in the Southern Section track final next spring.

Both are difficult tasks, but then again, Hall is better prepared to facing obstacles and conquering them these days.

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