Remembering Greg Hall, A Missouri Media Legend

* The late Greg Hall (right) poses with Kyle Deeken

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There's a line from the late Greg Hall's long-ago blog that perfectly sums up the man most people knew around St. Louis, Missouri. 

Dad first, and everything second

This couldn't be more true about one of the more well known local sports personalities in the state of Missouri, who in recent years had gone all-in on his track and field fandom, to the delight of so many around the state.

Whether athletes knew him in passing, saw his tweets spotlighting Missouri athletes, or had a chance to get to know him on a slightly deeper level, many saw the passion he gave to this sport, which first derived from his devotion as a father watching his sons compete on Saturday mornings around the state. His youngest son, Shannon, would go on to run at the University of Missouri.

But tragedy struck on Jan. 2 when Hall passed suddenly in his home, at the age of 65, to the shock of so many. Just days earlier, on Christmas, he had retweeted a note about a local high school team's devotion to the sport of cross country. 

"This really hurt," John Burroughs (MO) High School senior Brandon Miller said. "He was a great man." 

Athletes in other states may not have known Hall, but what he represented -- a constant presence inside Missouri with a shared passion for this sport -- is what many across the country can understand and connect with.

It probably isn't surprising that Hall's last tweet paid ode to his high school roots in Omaha, Nebraska, and the memories that were sewn in him from an early age -- that athletics played a huge role in people's lives.

He was a University of Kansas graduate, a husband to his wife, Donna, and a father to his two sons, Shannon and Dustin. 

Before he had become a revered media member covering high school track and field in the early 2010s -- he began working with MileSplit in 2012 and had produced photographs and stories until 2019 -- he had garnered attention for his Off The Couch column in Kansas City and had written for numerous other establishments. 

In recent years, track and field and cross country athletes got to know Hall as a photographer and writer.

"He was just one of those guys you would see at a meet and would always be happy," said Kyle Deeken, a former MileSplit Missouri editor and current head coach in Missouri. "And he was always trying to highlight different aspects of different athletes. He was trying to find all the cool stories." 

There were stories about the joy of cross country, of personal triumph and adversity. There were deep dives into the chemistry of legendary teams, stories detailing historic performances and of incredible individual success. Recently, there was the beautiful story of Avery Anderson, a double-amputee with immense courage and drive

And, of course, there were photos

Missouri MileSplit founder Paul Everett is a father, too, to sons David and Daniel. Even before he saw Hall's photos back in 2012, when he was looking for contributors to the site, there was a connection that the two shared, even though they wouldn't meet until the state meet that same year. 

"It was about serving the kids and the sport," Everett said of MileSplit. "Our bond was over that and he did great work. We couldn't pay him what a newspaper could, but he was all in. We both shared that same spirit. That's what brought us together." 

That first year, Everett started to realize how impactful Hall would become. 

"The quality of his photos was so strong and good," he said, "but looking past that, he made real connections. He would walk up on the starting line of XC meets and joke with the kids. He'd go down the line and get them in a great mood." 

Hall's best moments as a photographer were capturing the candid moments, seconds of sportsmanship and triumph, of camaraderie. 

"He captured the sport in a different and human way," Everett said. "That's what appealed to our audience." 

Athletes formed small and large bonds with Hall. Miller, the John Burroughs senior and Texas A&M signee, says he plans to honor him in some way in 2020, maybe with a note on his shoes, or with an arm band.

"To be completely honest," Miller said. "Our conversations often weren't about track. It was more than that. He was trying to see me as a person. He was a heartfelt man and was very passionate about track, and you could see that through his writing and pictures." 

Blue Springs graduate Victor Mugeche, echoed those sentiments. 

"As I got older, I developed a relationship with him," Mugeche said. "Whenever he was at a meet, he was a fun guy and his presence was always known. He made track and field and cross country special for us." 

Hall's annual "All Hair Teams" were a hit within Missouri, and athletes often tried their best to make the top photos. 

"That was always something everyone liked to see," said Johnny Brackins, a Lee's Summit High School junior who only recently had started to see and learn more about Hall at meets. "He had a big impact on us. I know for me, I was getting better at what I was doing and I was starting to get to know him more." 

As a freshman, Brackins was a young athlete developing in the sport, but by no means dominating. Still, one day, Hall snapped a photo of him and two friends. 

"That meant a lot," he said, "probably more than he realized." 

In 2015, Hall developed a special rapport with the Wildwood Lafayette High School boys program when he spent an entire weekend with them for a feature article. It certainly wasn't the first time he met everyone, but it would go on to be the most memorable experience. 

It was there where he got to really know Dylan Quisenberry, in his senior season, and Austin Hindman, a junior, among others. 

"Honestly, he watched me grow from the age of 14 until 18, and what I remembered was how proud of the athlete and the man I had become," Quisenberry said. "He told me good luck before college and I remember that conversation being one of the most impactful ones we had.

"It stuck with me, because it said to me that he was intentional about everything he did. He wasn't fake. He wasn't only interviewing Missouri's best athletes. He genuinely cared and it felt genuine. He always went out of his way to make sure you knew he knew who you were." 

Hindman, now a professional triathlete living in Tucson, Arizona, remembered how special the experience was seeing Hall work and observe the team. 

"That was the first time when really any of us had any personal spotlight on the state level," Hindman said. "And so it was just the fact that he had this interest in our team and believed in us." 

While many athletes may have only had a passing connection to Hall, many expressed their condolences online with news of Hall's passing.

"Even though he's gone, I feel like his legacy will live on," Mugeche said. 

"He loved connecting with people," Miller said. "Because to him, they were people first and then athletes."

"He was the best dude," Hindman said. "Greg was awesome. We all loved him. And it's extremely sad but we all know he's in a better place now and yeah. The state of Missouri was lucky to have him."

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