Hallie Kuhlman sprinting, training her way into Kansas record books
Wallace County (Sharon Springs, Kan.) junior uses innovative training to get unique results
As she crouched in the starting blocks for the final race of her sophomore season, the 200 meters, sprinter Hallie Kuhlman could feel her nerves building.
To calm herself down, she zeroed in on the moment. It didn’t matter that she’d already won the 100-, 400- and 800-meter races (that same day!). No way did she expect to finish first, she just wanted to run a good race.
Get started on Hallie's exercise program
Seconds later — 26.32 to be exact — Hallie powered past the finish line and, for the first time in Kansas State Track and Field’s 100-year history, wrapped up back-to-back state championships in the 100, 400, 800—and now, 200—meters.
“That was really cool and exciting,” says Hallie, in her typically modest fashion. “I’m always thankful for what God has given me the chance to do. This is one of those things.”
Um, kind of an amazing thing, we’d say.
Oh yeah, and did we mention that this 16-year old running star is now an eight-time Kansas state track champ? It’s a gi-normous achievement for this tiny-town girl from Sharon Springs, Kansas, a farming community of just 800 residents, about 200 miles southeast of Denver.
Hallie Kuhlman (center) shares a smile with her cousin Dayna Kuhlman (left) and her sister Audra.
“I love this little town,” says Hallie, who’s one of 59 students at Wallace County High School.
Adds her mom, Karen, who moved there from nearby Oakley with Hallie’s dad, Ken, in 1991, “What I like about it is everyone is concerned for you. The whole community is involved with these kids.”
Hallie’s speed and spirit surfaced early on, during her grade school’s annual play-day sprints and obstacle courses, where she regularly beat out both the boys and girls. (Her favorite event? The 25-meter dash, of course.) By the time she was in the fourth grade, her instinctive running abilities had prompted her dad to sign her up for AAU track meets.
“It was something that came naturally to me,” Hallie says. “I loved just going out and running, and I’m not myself when I don’t do it.”
Within three short years, Hallie’s pace and technique had advanced noticeably. Not to mention her grit and determination. Her dad remembers telling her about a coach who once made him do 25 fingertip push-ups with his feet raised on a bench.
“Within a month, she came into the room and said ‘Dad, I did it!’” says Ken, remembering how Hallie, then 12, dropped to the floor, her feet up on the ottoman, and knocked out 25 fingertip push-ups right in front of him.
These days, that same tenacity still carries Hallie through all of her toughest races.
“When that monkey jumps on her back (at the far end of a 400m race), she just drives right through it,” says Kevin Ayers, her high school track and strength coach. “You can see it on her face… It’s amazing what happens when you have this level of talent and work ethic.
“I’ll only coach one like her in my entire career.”
Brian MacKenzie, the founder of CrossFit Endurance, coached Hallie (who trains, in part, using his program) during a weekend certification seminar in April 2009.
“She’s probably the most determined, gifted and motivated athlete I’ve seen,” he says.
Hallie definitely appreciates all the praise and attention, but her growing collection of winning medals, trophies and recordbreaking times is also a source of stress and anxiety. It’s tough enough winning four state championships in one year, let alone doing it twice in a row.
How about three or four times?
“That’s a good goal to have,” she says, “but it brings a lot of pressure” — which Hallie, like many elite athletes, puts on herself. “It always disappoints me when I can’t do something,” she says. “If I have a bad day at the track, it’s just not fun for me.”
Not surprisingly, she finds relief and focus when she trains. This winter, she’ll hit it harder than ever before, using an intense workout regimen based on CrossFit.
A core strength and conditioning program to develop athletic performance, Ayers introduced it to his students at Wallace County High in 2005. Hallie’s grueling routine might call for three rounds of 21, 15 and 9 reps of 75-pound thrusters and pull-ups on one day; then two squats per minute for 10 minutes, using 70 percent of her maximum squat weight, on the next. It’s raised her overall performance level considerably and, since most of these circuits are done quickly, with minimal rest in between, CrossFit has hugely improved Hallie’s ability to recover, too. (No small advantage when you’re running 3-4 races at every meet!)
“I’ve gotten increasingly stronger with CrossFit,” says Hallie. “I really like it, and feel like I’m getting something accomplished when I do it.”
During her ‘offseason,’ Hallie plays basketball and volleyball, and competes as a state champion powerlifter. When she’s not pushing her limits in the gym or maintaining her 4.0 GPA, Hallie hangs out with her friends on Saturday nights — driving “all around town, wherever,” she says.
She also attends mass with her family every Wednesday evening, where she helps lead her mom’s choir group, before going on to youth Bible class.
Looking ahead to the April track season and another round of state competitions, Hallie plans to improve her times — and work on keeping her cool under pressure.
“I’m going to try to relax, and not over think it,” she says. “As long as I can do my best, I’m not going to worry about anything else. The state meet isn’t what matters, I don’t know — that’s just not what’s important.”
We couldn’t agree more.