For certain individuals, track and field is an individual pursuit. For others, it's a team pursuit. But for Huntington Saint Anthony's (NY) High senior Halle Hazzard and her family, it's what they do.
"Even though I didn't start Track and Field until ninth grade, it has always been a part of my life," said Halle Hazzard, who was a runner-up in the 60m at New Balance Nationals Indoor in March. "I started out as a spectator, watching my older sister and brother compete in races every weekend.
"Whether it was sitting in the bleachers at Mitchell Field watching my sister do the 100, or going to Madison Square Garden to watch my brother compete in the Millrose Games, I was always exposed to the excitement and intensity of the sport."
Like a relay team, the Hazzard siblings -- Ariel, Payton and Halle -- have handed one another wisdom, advice, and mentorship as each chase towards their respective ambitions. However, at one point in time, it appeared Halle would not be waiting in the transition zone for a handoff from her older brother, Payton.
Prior to running, Halle was an avid gymnast. Although she may still be seen performing handstands and handsprings before and after practice, a testament to her fun-loving personality, Hazzard made the switch to the oval during her freshman year.
Though it wasn't without its fair share of false starts.
"When I first began track, I really had no idea how to sprint," the University of Virginia bound senior said. "I spent most of my life watching the sport, but quickly learned that running is not as easy as it seems. My first race was rough. I wasn't used to the feeling of lactic acid in my legs or the pounding headaches that came after a 400. Workouts were even worse. I was put in the slower groups and I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I had a natural ability for running I just had to find it, and one meet I finally did."
Like most things in Halle's life, this moment involved family.
"It was one of my first home meets at St. Anthony's," Halle recalled. "My older brother came to watch me run for the first time so I really wanted to do well. I ended up running a 42 second 300 and PRed by 5 seconds. No one expected me to win, let alone run that time. At that moment, I knew I had something special."
This was just one instance of Halle's brother, Payton, playing an active role in Halle's growth as an athlete. Her development has involved his instruction in more ways than one.
"It's a mixture of feelings," said Payton, who is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia. "There aren't enough words to accurately describe how proud of her I am. At the same time, I have a constant feeling of terror, in that one day maybe things might not go her way. That's why I use my own track and field and life experiences to constantly guide her, in the hope that she can learn from my struggles and failures I had to go through alone."
The progression through her high school career has certainly been an interesting one. During her first two years of track, Halle had to feel her way through the sport quite literally. She had to find her form, learn how to down start, and transform practice instruction into race performance.
"It was hard work and took a lot of focus, but I had fun doing it," she said. "Even if I wouldn't do well in a race, I never let it bother me because I knew I was still learning. With each race I would learn more about sprinting, and even got to learn more about myself."
The challenge for Halle was continuing to develop even when her family was not able to oversee her from the bleachers. This led to the discovery of her extended family, Saint Anthony's coach Oliver St. Aude.
The four-year rapport has nurtured Halle's natural ability into a national contender.
"My teammates and coaches have motivated me so much throughout these four years of high school," Halle reminisced. "The thing I love about going to a school like St. Anthony's is that we are like one big family. I have so many classmates and teammates rooting me on every single week."
No one can better attest
to Halle's maturity on the track than her very own coach.
"Each season we have come across different aspects of her running," Oliver St. Aude said. "Her sophomore year it was finishing, junior year it was her start and each season we have been patient and went back and looked at every stride and worked on each step of her phases and improved upon them. I know for her it's been about understanding everything that her body is doing and why something is happening. She prides herself on hard work and understands how hard the road is and can be."
That meticulous methodology has paid great dividends. This is most apparent in Hazzard's senior year, which begins from New York and finds itself in the Caribbean.
Despite her past accomplishments, Hazzard felt pressure as she awaited the start of the New York State meet.
"Going into indoor states this year I definitely felt the pressure," Halle said. "It's my senior year, and I really wanted to finish strong. My previous experiences at that meet had not really been the best, and I wanted to end the season on a good note."
For Hazzard, the comfort of home did not loom too far from the Ocean Breeze track and field facility, the host of this year's indoor New York State meet. But the "hostile" atmosphere synonymous with a state championship meet stirred Hazzard's nerves.
To calm the chaos, Halle resorted to reflecting on her journey as a Friar.
"I had to remember why I started track, and why I run," said Hazzard. "The answer to that was simple: I do it because I love it. And I think in all the competition and rivalry I forgot that. Right before the final, my coach reminded me of that same thing. He told me to go out there and do what I always do, not worry about the competition, and just have fun."
Both her mental and physical willpower propelled her to two state titles, one in the 55m and the other in the 300m.
"I'll never forget the feeling of crossing that finish line [of the 55m final]," Hazzard said. "It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt two years of hard work finally pay off. When I win a race, I usually don't show a lot of emotion because I know I have to keep myself grounded, but when I saw my time [6.86 seconds] I literally could not keep my feet on the ground."
Unable to keep her feet on the ground, Halle continued to rise to the occasion at Ocean Breeze.
"I was happy enough to win the 55, so winning the 300 was just the icing on the cake," Halle said.
Halle's two titles earned at states, helped to quell the anxiety and anticipation of New Balance Nationals Indoor.
"I was not as nervous for nationals as I was for states," Halle said.
But despite her calm and collective demeanor at the sound of the starting gun, Halle felt a sense of resolve at the finish line 7.36 seconds later.
"The final was one of the closest races I've ever been in. We were all neck and neck coming down the straight away so when I crossed the line I had no idea what place I got. When I saw second place I couldn't be happier. I had come a long way from freshman year, and I'm truly grateful for the people that helped me reach that point."
St. Aude credits Halle for not letting her race take control of her emotions.
Hazzard's career has been a story of progression.
Therefore, success on the state and national level opened opportunity to the international stage at the FLOW CARIFTA Games in Curacao.
Halle competed in the U-20 junior division, representing Grenada, and raced the 100m and 200m events.
Payton Hazzard has put it best as to why his family proudly represents Grenada whenever they find themselves competing in international meets.
"My relationship to the country is that both my father, and my grandmother on my mother's side are from the country," Payton explained. "Although I didn't realize it growing up, my heritage was extremely influential on the way I grew up. I didn't know how to put it into words back then.... the best way to describe it is with the word "in-between".
"I didn't feel fully American because my parents had strange accents, I ate different types of food than all my friends and of course, my skin color was different from the majority of my friends at the time. I was also just raised on a different set of core values. My parents worked long hours holding down two- three jobs each while still trying to support my sisters and me. All of this resulted in my sisters and I being taught to never settle for less than the best in all aspects of life. This carried over to the track when we all decided to run."
Halle's performance in Curacao was proof that she ran for more than herself. She ran for her family.
"The experience at CARIFTA was incredible," Halle said. "The stadium was packed. There were horns going off, people cheering, and country flags being waved in the stands. In order to focus I had to tune out the audience and concentrate on my race. This was my first international meet so I didn't expect to advance to the finals, let alone make the podium.
"Winning bronze in the 100m [11.67s] and silver in the 200m [24.15s] was amazing. I proved to not only myself, but to everyone that I can step onto that professional stage and succeed. I was proud to win two medals for the country of Grenada and I can't wait to see what else the future may hold."
For now, the future will be shaped by a new family and the University of Virginia.
"The school has so many tools to help the student-athlete succeed on and off the track, which can be difficult to find at other schools," Payton explained. "I also trust the individuals on both the men's and women's track [teams]and know that Halle will not only be safe, but [will be] able to make tons of friends there."
"I want to her to succeed the way a parent wants a child to succeed and build upon their legacy."
The legacy of the Hazzard family is far from the finish line. In fact, the legacy has only just begun.