Captains’ Corner: Peter Hale ’17

Peter Hale ’17. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

Team:

Men’s track and field

Hometown:

Swampscott, Mass.

Residence:

Milham House

Major:

History and English, with a certificate in German

Snack bar order:

Breakfast burrito and a Skyr yogurt from Lee’s

Did you ever play any sports in addition to running?

I was really bad at sports. I always had poor eyesight and hand-eye coordination, so everything besides running was an absolute failure. I would attempt soccer, baseball and basketball, and I would be terrible at all of them. My family is not athletic, my parents aren’t into sports and I didn’t grow up watching sports, so for me, I had no idea what my role was in any of these games. I found running as a result of failing at every other sport. In gym class, we would do the mile run, and I loved it. It was the only day of the year where I was the star. I gravitated toward running because it was something I enjoyed, and from an early age, I knew I was at least pretty good at it.

At what age did you choose to focus on running?

It was really late. I had played football my freshman year of high school, and that ended up being a really poor decision. The culture and the skill set required were really different from who I was. As much as I loved being with the team, it just didn’t work out. Sophomore year, I dedicated myself to cross country and track, and they were better fits for me. I had always done some kind of running, but that was the point when I decided to drop everything else and focus on it.

Why did you decide to come to the College?

Junior year [of high school], I started getting letters from college coaches asking me to check out their programs. [Cross Country Head Coach] Pete [Farwell ’73] reached out to me late in the process after I had set my mind on a few other schools. But he, unlike other coaches, was really willing to talk with me and show me the program. I knew that, based on the classes I was sitting in and the people on the team who were talking to me, it was a good social and academic fit. I had never heard of Williams before Pete reached out to me, and within a couple of months, it was the one school I really wanted to get into.

What are the differences in your approaches to cross country and track?

Track is more methodical, whereas cross country is more in-the-moment. Cross country requires a lot of restraint early on. Races are longer and there are factors that you can’t control. People might knock into you, you might trip and there’s terrain you have to worry about – so you’re more in the moment in cross country. You’re navigating through a pack, waiting for the right time to make a move. It’s more about place than time. Track is more focused on splits, times and qualifications for certain meets.

What is your favorite event?

I really like the 3000m indoors because it’s a good mix of speed and strength. I, as a long-distance runner, have a little more speed than the average [long-distance] runner, but as a middle-distance runner, I don’t have as much speed as the pure middle-distance runner. I have a little speed and a little stamina, and it comes together to be a fun race for me. Over the course of four years, I’ve been working hard to whittle that 3000m time down. I think it’s my best event, which obviously helps in enjoying it.

You won the 3000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships this year, and no Williams runner had been an indoor or outdoor NCAA champion since 2010. How did it feel to win that race?

Being the top seed made me kind of nervous; as the top seed, you can only do worse than what people expect of you and what you expect of yourself. For me, it felt more like matching an expectation and not necessarily reaching toward something. Honestly, once the gun went off, I was really comfortable. There were a couple of guys on my tail until the last 200 meters. I didn’t expect to be in the front early on, so it was a bit of a new position for me. I had expected people to go out hard to try to break me, but I ended out in the front. I was able to control the race and stay out of trouble. The race played into my hands, and I took advantage.

For the indoor season, you were named Men’s National Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. What do accolades like that mean to you?

It’s kind of the cherry on top to a long season. I appreciate the accolades, but what I really cared about this season was breaking 8:10 in the 3000m. When it comes to an accolade, there could be other people who are as deserving who don’t win. Times are directly reflective of the amount of work you put in. I was fixated more on breaking 8:10 in the 3000m than I ever was in winning a certain race or shooting for a certain award. For me, what matters the most is how fast you can go. You can win some of these races, and the time might not be the fastest you can go. What I focus on, and what’s most exciting for me as a track runner, is really pushing myself. I’m happy to have won Nationals, but what I was really excited about was breaking 8:10 at Boston University. That was the high point of the season for me.

Do you have any goals for the spring season?

I want the team to win NESCACs. Tufts beat us by 30 points at Div. III Indoors, but given the new events in outdoors that place to our favor, I’m super excited for this NESCAC campaign. We’ve really come together as a team since indoor season. Tufts is really formidable, so we’ll really have to push. It’s going to be an uphill battle, and I can’t wait.

How did injuries have an impact on your cross country season?

I sustained a calf injury near the end of the season and was out for the next month. I was really down about not being able to contribute to the team, but they did really well without me, winning NESCACs. Personally, it was rough not being out there. That injury really fueled the fire for indoor season. Once I was healthy, I needed to do something extra in the indoor season to make up for not being there at the end of cross country season. So in a weird way, it kind of helped to have been injured and have suffered on the sidelines.

What has it been like to captain both cross country and track?

Every captain finds his own identity. I think my role has been to speak through actions and not necessarily through words. If anything, I can be an example to the younger guys that diligence pays off. If you keep at it, you’ll improve, and you’ll succeed. There are times when injuries get in the way of performances, and sometimes you may not be improving as quickly as you’d expect. You put in so much effort that track and cross country can be kind of brutal sometimes. I hope that, as a senior who has done this for four years and has dealt with injuries in the past, I can show younger guys that it’s worth it.

What do you do to prepare for races?

A lot of people have these strict rituals. I’ve always thought that, as long as I can get a good breakfast in and as long as I’m not hungry, I’m prepared. Usually I’ll formulate my warmup by looking at what other people are doing, and I’ll incorporate that into my stretching. When you have a ritual, and something goes wrong, your performance can be negatively affected. I try to do away with rituals and just get loose.

What is special about your coaches at the College?

They’re very knowledgeable and approachable. Coach Farwell and [Assistant] Coach [Nick] Lehman allow us to take charge. They give us a lot of freedom – which I think is different from a lot of programs. They’ll give us workouts and tell us the general plan, and we get to decide how we train based on how we feel. It makes us stay self-motivated, knowing that nobody is forcing us to do anything.

What are the moments you’ll remember from running at the College?

I love the spur-of-the-moment adventure runs we do sometimes. There’s this trail called Triple R that goes to the top of Berlin Pass, and there’s a steep uphill and a steep downhill. We always choose to do it spontaneously, and it’s really fun, but I always get injured. Nevertheless, I love when we just say, “Hey, we’re going to go up this ATV trail that goes to Pownal,” or “We’re going to run along the train tracks and jump over a river and go through a farmer’s field.” Because why not? Those are the types of runs that always stand out to me, when we have a bit of an adventure. They don’t happen that often, but they’re special.

Do you know what you’re doing after you graduate?

I just received a Fulbright scholarship, so I’ll be in Germany next year.

How has running benefitted your life?

Running rewards determination and sticking through hard times, and it’s great for managing stress. Whenever things are piling up, I can go for a run and feel much better afterward. As far as challenges that come my way, I always feel capable of tackling them, and I attribute that to a state of mind I’ve learned through running. Wherever I go, I’ll definitely keep running.