By Melody Guyton Butts
The first to sprint across the finish line at the waterlogged 2018 state cross-country meet, Allison Hall ’24 set the stage for the Durham Academy girls team to win the squad’s first title in 22 years. And for longtime observers of DA cross-country, her performance brought to mind a pair of impressive state meet performances 30 years ago — when Hall’s father and mother placed first and seventh, respectively.
“After I won, I thought about my dad winning, and then everyone told me it was 30 years after. My parents met running, as well, and now I like to run, which is really cool.”
Conrad Hall ’89 and Virginia Reves Hall ’91 actually met on DA’s first-ever swim team, as Virginia recalls, but it was while running cross-country that they began dating.
Conrad — a five-time state individual event champion and a two-time Durham City-County Meet champion — helped lead DA to four state championships in both cross-country and track. He now teaches history and coaches the varsity cross-country and track teams at Cary Academy. And Virginia — who placed second in the state in the 800 meter run and was a member of the 4 x 400 meter relay teams that won the state championship three years in a row — helped lead the girls team to two state cross-country championships. She now teaches fifth-grade history at DA and coaches the JV cross-country teams.
Their siblings — Miles Hall ’91, Christy Reves ’92 and Betsy Reves Sidebottom ’94 — each had success on the DA cross-county course and track in their own right, and Conrad and Virginia have made physical activity a priority by running marathons, competing in triathlons and playing tennis.
Allison and her younger sister, Catherine ’26, have undoubtedly inherited some speedy, athletic genes. But perhaps more importantly, the Halls treat opportunities to engage in physical activity as opportunities to connect with one another, family and friends.
“We are a family that is committed to being active, staying fit and making it a social thing,” Virginia said. “In terms of how running is important for our family, it’s something we do together, for special occasions,” like the Peachtree Road Race 10K in Atlanta each July 4, the Race the Landing 5K in Charleston, S.C., each New Year’s Day and the DA Turkey Trot 5K around Thanksgiving each year.
Until recently, seventh-grader Allison saw running as a just-for-fun activity, as she played soccer competitively. But over the summer, she decided to shift her focus to running and began training in earnest, often running alongside her father.
For Conrad, experiencing the thrill of witnessing his daughter’s state title victory while coaching his Cary Academy runners was simultaneously “very exciting and fun” and “a little bit weird and different.”
“I knew she could have a great race, but I had no idea she would be able to win. As the race went on and she kept hanging in there, it gradually became evident that she was having a special day and might have an amazing race. It wasn’t until she actually crossed the finish line that we started taking in what she had just done.”
Dennis Cullen, who coached DA’s cross-country and track teams for 39 years and continues to help with the program, described the 2018 meet’s course conditions — driving rain overhead and inches of mud underfoot — as “the worst I’ve ever seen in a state meet.”
But for Allison — whom her mother caught running and high-fiving with her father in gusting winds and rain as the remnants of Hurricane Michael approached in October — they offered an opportunity to exercise her grit.
“Those conditions, I like them,” Allison said, “because even though they’re hard for me, they’re hard for everyone, so you really have to persevere.”
Now, 30 years since that fateful 1988 cross-country season, her parents can’t help but reflect on all that has happened since.
“This is something that I would have never anticipated, that Conrad and I would both end up being teachers and coaches — and me at DA and Allison running for DA,” Virginia said. “If you told me that when I was 15 and starting to date Conrad, I’d have been pretty surprised.”
For Conrad, the impact of the DA cross-country program on his life is difficult to quantify.
“It’s a big part of my career and calling now as I coach CA runners and help them grow as athletes and people. My DA running career is a long time ago now, and my focus is on my coaching at present, but those days on the DA team with Coach Cullen were extremely formative and positive for me,” he recalled. “For Virginia and me, who we are as people, our careers and callings, and our 20-year marriage and family is all tied to those years on DA cross-country with Coach Cullen and our DA cross country teammates. And now Allison is in the DA program and having a great experience. Amazing, really!”
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