Nikiski's Hall would rather ski than watch TV

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2002

In his famous late-1970s book, author Jerry Mander gives "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television." Perhaps Nikiski senior Zack Hall could be a fifth argument.

"We've never had a TV, until last year when we got a VCR, and even that's pretty restricted," Hall said. "So much of the stuff on TV is just a waste of time.

"There are some good things on TV, but I'd rather be doing more productive things with my time."

Some of those productive things?

Hall carries a 4.0 grade point average at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School.

Hall sings in the chamber choir at Nikiski, and has made all-state choir three times.

Hall has played trumpet in the jazz band since eighth grade.

Hall has been in the National Honors Society for three years.

Hall has had a lot of success in skiing, including winning male Skier of the Year honors last weekend at the Region III ski meet.

Hall has been a part of two small-schools state football titles with the Bulldogs.

Hall works over the summers, but also finds time to camp, fish and hunt.

"Our choice not to have TV was focused on the kids doing their studies, being outdoors, being active in social things and not wasting time in front of the TV," said Carol Hall, Zack's mother.

While not having a television has played a role in Hall's success, there's another move Carol and Hal Hall made in the nurturing of their son that turned out just as rosy -- moving the family from Las Vegas to Nikiski when Zack was in sixth grade.

"We were tired of the city life," Carol said. "We figured it was time to make a change for the family. Hal and I vacationed up here.

"We went home and took a few months to get ready, then we moved the family up here."

Until he moved to Alaska, Hall had been an active child that stayed busy swimming and biking, but never participated in organized sports.

That changed in seventh grade when he decided to take advantage of Alaska's climate and go out for skiing.

"(Skiing) sounded like a really cool thing," Hall said. "I'd been up here for 1 1/2 years after moving up from Las Vegas, and snow was a brand-new thing to me.

"Plus, my mom had spent a little time teaching in Norway and she talked about them skiing all over the place. It just sounded like the thing for me to do."

Hall said he always felt pretty natural on skis, but gave credit to his coach in middle school, Lori Manion, for having a big influence on his skiing career.

As a seventh-grader, Hall was finishing in the top 10 of races. As an eighth-grader, he was finishing in the top three.

Then came the transition to high school.

"It was a big step up," Hall said. "I can remember skiing in races and having guys like Eric Strabel and Ryan Quinn pass me. It was incredible."

After finishing 60th in state as a freshman, Hall watched as the only real training partner he'd had at Nikiski -- Ryan Carroll -- departed due to graduation.

For the next three years, it would be up to Hall to push himself to be one of the state's best skiers. There would be no training partners to pull him along for the ride.

"I think the biggest thing is to set goals," Hall said of how he's continued to improve without a training partner. "If you go out there and do a lot of intervals without focus or goals, it won't be much fun at all."

Hall's focus paid off with a gold medal in a relay event at the Junior Olympics his sophomore year. The Junior Olympics draw the best junior skiers in America, so the gold meant Hall was one of the country's best skiers at his age group.

Hall wanted to attend the Junior Olympics again his junior year, but he was slowed by illness and just missed making the team.

"I was disappointed in my season, but I learned so much from it," Hall said. "I learned a lot about the way I train and the way I compete."

Dale Bakk, who had been Hall's coach for four years in high school, said Hall's ability to keep improving has made him special.

"He's got oodles and oodles of potential," Bakk said. "He's still learning how to ski fast.

"Some kids, as you watch them over the years, ski fast but reach a plateau and never ski faster. With Zack, he's always getting faster."

Due to that improvement, Hall made Alaska's high-powered Junior Olympics team again this year. He also clinched his status as the region's top male skier last weekend.

Hall does all this even though he plays football in the fall and doesn't run cross country like many other skiers.

Football requires explosive power in repeated 10- to 20-second bursts, while skiing requires sustained power for 10 minutes or longer.

"I learned a lot from football, and I had a lot of fun playing it," Hall said. "Coach (Scott Anderson) said, 'The goal isn't the end of the road, the goal is the road.'

"In ski practice, sometimes it's hard to make yourself do intervals or put in two hours for a workout, but it all builds on itself. Every day, you're adding on."

Hall doesn't know where he's going to college, but he plans on skiing there and possibly pursuing a career in musical education.

"If he decides to ski, even beyond college, he definitely knows what it would take," Bakk said. "It wouldn't even surprise me to see him in the mix for the next U.S. Olympic team, if he decides to fully apply himself to that.

"He's the kind of kid that when you give him a little advice on technique, you watch him in the next race and, by George, he's got it."

Hmmm. The Olympics. Now that might give the Halls a reason to turn on the TV.



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