Casco’s Kate Hall has been training for years in hopes of earning a spot on the U.S. team for the 2020 Olympics. Now she says the Tokyo Games can wait.

Lewiston High School and Penn State graduate Isaiah Harris, middle, tries to catch Bryce Hoppel as they head down the back stretch the 800-meter race at the Millrose Games in New York City in February. Harris finished third. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Hall, the 2019 indoor national champion in the women’s long jump, said Monday that the Olympics should be postponed for a year or two because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“At this point, the most important thing is protecting the athletes — and everyone,” she said.

“I know a lot of athletes, including me, who are upset that the (International Olympic Committee) came out and said we should continue to train like nothing is happening. I think for the (IOC) to expect athletes to go to train and put themselves at risk right now — it’s so unfair. It’s unfair to athletes in all sports.”

Lewiston native Isaiah Harris, a middle-distance runner who competed for the United States at the 2017 World Championships, hopes the Summer Games are postponed to later this fall — even if it means no fans are allowed in the stadium.

“I would still want to go,” said Harris, who recently who moved his training to Nike Headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. “The Olympics are every four years, and that’s every athlete’s ultimate goal. You never know if you’re going to be in the right shape — or if you’ll even have another opportunity. Personally, I would still want to go if Team USA is sending a team.”

The Tokyo Games are scheduled for July 24 to Aug. 9, and the U.S. Olympic track and field trials are scheduled for June 19-28 in Eugene, Oregon.

On Saturday, USA Track and Field, the governing body of track and field in the United States, called for the 2020 Olympics to be postponed. In the past few days, Canada and Australia have announced they won’t be sending athletes to Japan if the games go on as scheduled this year. The IOC said it plans to examine postponement over the next four weeks.

Isaiah Harris prepares for the start of the 800-meter race at the Millrose Games in February in New York City. He finished third with a personal indoor best time of 1 minute, 46.01 seconds. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Harris said it’s stressful worrying about how his training might change if the Olympics are pushed back — particularly after he battled back from a back injury last indoor season. This indoor season, he finished second in the 800 at U.S. nationals with a time of 1 minute, 47.16 seconds.

“The momentum is there,” Harris said.

In 2017, as a sophomore at Penn State, Harris finished second in the 800 meters at the U.S. Outdoor Track Nationals with a time of 1:44.53 and earned a berth on the U.S. Team that competed at the World Championships. The next year — he won the NCAA title in the 800 in 1:44.75.

Harris hopes the IOC decides when to hold the Games quickly.

“I’d rather they tell us sooner rather than later,” Harris said. “A lot of (professional track) athletes are angry. You set your whole year building to when you will peak. We’re planning to peak in August. Now, if they postpone it to November, that throws your training cycle off.”

Kevin Morris photo

Hall, a two-time NCAA long jump champion who returned home to Maine two years ago to train for the Olympics, said holding the games this summer — or even later this fall — risks putting thousands of athletes in danger of contracting the virus by forcing them to continue to train at gyms and fields, near other people.

The current schedule would force aspiring Olympic track athletes to compete during a rushed summer season in stadiums, she said, while trying to make the Olympic standards in various events.

Hall could be at greater risk than many other athletes if she were to contract the virus because she is a Type-I diabetic. Hall has testified before Congress on diabetes research and is sponsored by Omnipod, a company that makes a device that allows her to manage her blood-sugar level on her cellphone.

“I’m fairly healthy — and active. But I’m not really sure what would happen if I got it,” Hall said. “There are so many unknowns with this virus.”

Hall, 23, trains at the Momentum Performance and Wellness gym in South Portland with trainer Chris Pribish, who coached her in high school — but only when the gym is closed to the public. Pribish still trains other people at the gym at other times, although he limits the group sizes to 10 people, in keeping with government guidelines, Hall said.

Hall left the University of Georgia — where she was a two-time NCAA long jump champion — in 2018 before her senior year to turn pro, and quickly lined up several sponsors, including Asics, Omnipod Insulin Management Systems and Rowe Hyundai in Maine.

She said Monday that she felt she was on a trajectory to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic Team, even though last summer she failed to make the U.S. team heading to the World Championships after placing 10th at U.S. nationals with a jump of 21 feet, 6 inches.

Last outdoor season, Hall jumped 22-3 twice — at a meet in Boston and again in France. It was her best jump outdoors as a pro and second-best all-time (behind the 22-5 she jumped in 2015 to break a 39-year-old national high school record and give her the national title).

This indoor season, Hall jumped 21-11 to take second at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships — her best indoor jump as a pro and second-best ever, behind her 2018 NCAA victory jump of 22-1 when she competed for Georgia.

“I did pretty well this indoor season — and we’re just going into a strength phase, and then we were going to start the season in mid-April, and hopefully get the standard,” Hall said. “Definitely, it’s a little stressful not knowing what’s going to happen.”


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