Sometimes a tweet or phone call is like a slap to the face – a wake-up call that pleads with you to make the most out of every minute you have on this earth.
I got that type of message this morning, when I learned that track and field photographer/writer/philanthropist and all-around great guy Greg Hall had passed away.
The adage around the metro area was simple: “If Greg Hall and his cameras were at your meet, it was a big deal.”
But he never considered himself a big deal. He was just an avid runner who competed in several Boston Marathons, who loved to be around young people, chat with their coaches and take those kind of photos that are worth more than 1,000 words.
I first met Greg through a friend who called me way, way back in the early 2000s when Hall named me the best columnist in the metro area in his annual Best of Kansas City column in The Pitch.
He talked about my passion, my love affair with sports and those who participate and he called me “a poor man’s Joe Posnanski,” which I considered the ultimate compliment because the former Kansas City Star columnist is the best writer in the country.
For my name to be mentioned in the same sentence as Joe, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Moments after word spread about Hall’s sudden death, I heard from so many area track and field and cross country coaches.
I feel it is important to let them express their feelings in their own words:
• Ryan Unruh, Blue Springs South: “Greg represented the best of what I love about coaching track and field and cross country. In his endless posts and tweets he emphasized relationships and memories over wins and losses. He truly, and without asking for anything in return, supported all runners and athletes no matter the program, no matter the talent. Greg just got distance running because he was one and he was the father of one. He knew the difficulty and the sacrifice it takes for all levels and he celebrated those kids and made them feel like professionals. He was a constant at all the big meets and a lot of the small ones. Always with his camera, always with a kind word of encouragement for the runners. He was passionate about the sport, but he never lost focus on the kids and he befriended a ton of them. To be in a Greg Hall picture was something special. I have saved a ton of his over the years as I’m sure many other athletes and coaches have. He will be missed.”
• Frank Gallick, Blue Springs: “I just heard about Greg’s passing this morning. It is a very sad day to lose such a great person. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a person love what he did as much as Greg did and how it impacted so many people. He was such a great ambassador for high school sports. He made the high school athletes feel like superstars – like they were someone special – in a day when so many of them need all the encouragement they can get. He didn’t care what team you were on, the color of your uniform, or the color of your hair, he made everyone feel good about the moment. They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Greg said a lot in his time with everyone. I thank him for all the smiles he brought. I’m thankful to be able to call him a friend. He will be missed.”
• Marcus Summers, Truman: “I have not known Greg for very long but his passion for kids from all schools and our sports we love was very evident. Some of the moments he captured with his camera truly set the scene for our kids’ dreams and goals with sports. Always a smile on his face when he greeted myself or the kids. It is a great loss to the cross country and track community in our area for everyone who knew Greg.”
• Tyler Rathke, William Chrisman: “I feel like Greg captured those moments in cross country and track and field that would have gone unnoticed. He told so many stories through his pictures. And I believe his passion and understanding of running helped create those special pictures. He turned that passion and love of running – because he was an avid runner – into creating a lifetime of memories. I remember when I arrived at Chrisman back in 2016 and all I heard about was this Greg Hall. So I contacted him through Twitter and asked him to come to one of our meets. He said he was sorry, but he had committed to a previous meet. So I’m thinking, if we get this Greg Hall guy to come to one of our meets, it’s a big deal. Well, the next year he started at a meet at Oak Park and finished at our meet, and he came back to our meet every year. One year he asked me to dinner after a meet. He said to pick the spot on The Square and he was buying. So we met and had this amazing conversation about MSHSAA (Missouri State High School Activities Association), how to run a meet, how to build a program. And when I heard he had passed, I thought about that dinner. I know he was tired, and I was tired, but we met up and had a wonderful conversation. Had we not met, and had I heard the news today, I would have always had a regret that we didn’t go out to dinner. So I hope everyone is going to do their best to make the most out of every day because I know Greg Hall did.”
• Chris Earley, Fort Osage: “This is very sad. He covered cross country like no other. Very sad news.”
I think back to all the great conversations I had with Greg over the years, and today they mean more to me than ever.
From his “All-Hair Team” photos – which featured the most outrageous hair he could spot at the meets he photographed – to those once-in-a-lifetime moments of great joy and defeat, he was a guy who will be missed, but never forgotten.
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC