Until this summer, Marcella Hale-Hall's greatest claim to fame, she says, was as a high school track-and-field teammate of a one-time Olympic gold medalist.
But this past summer, the Kannapolis resident achieved her own success.
Competing in the World Masters Athletics Championships and the USA Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships for the first time this summer, Hale-Hall won gold medals at both events, results that surprised even herself since she has competed sparingly over the last few years.
Hale-Hall, now 60 years old, had lived all her life in Cleveland until she moved to Cabarrus County in November 2006. She became engaged to Sam Hall, a Kannapolis resident and much-decorated Masters track and field athlete she met in 2003.
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Then known as Marcella Hale, she competed in Masters track and field events - for ages 30 and older - from 1991-95 but says she gave it up so she could spend more time playing tennis and biking. She remained a track-and-field enthusiast and often traveled to support friends competing in Masters events.
Hale was sitting in the bleachers at a meet in Puerto Rico in 2003 when Sam Hall approached her, telling her he heard she was from his hometown of Tallahassee, Fla.
"I'm thinking, 'Can't you do better than that?' " she said. " 'Is that the line they're using these days?' "
Hale and Hall began a long-distance relationship, trading visits between their Ohio and North Carolina homes and meeting each other at the 2005 World Masters Athletics Championships in Spain.
After getting married in April 2007, Hale-Hall became a member of the Carolinas Track and Field Club, a Charlotte-based club for masters athletesincluding Sam Hall. Hale-Hall originally joined the club only as a family member, not as an athlete.
Hale-Hall followed her husband's lead and started training as a sprinter in 2008. She alternated three days on the track and three days in the gym.
In 2009, she started competing for the first time in 14 years. She finished the season with the second-best time in the nation in her age group in the 400 meters.
"I did not compete in 2010," said Hale-Hall. "I just decided to take the year off. I still worked out, I just didn't compete."
After a couple of successful local meets in May and early June, Hale-Hall took off for Sacramento, Calif., in mid-July for the World Masters Athletics Championships.
As one of 24 athletes in the 400 meters in the 60-64 age group, Hale-Hall took sixth place. With a team representing the United States, Hale-Hall ran a leg on the 400-meter relay team that won the gold medal.
In late July, she returned to Cleveland, where she once was a high school teammate of Madeline Manning, a gold-medal winner at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. At the USA Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Hale-Hall won gold medals in the 200- and 400-meter races and the 400-meter relay, and a silver medal in the 100 meter race.
Now that the current season is over, Hale-Hall will begin off-season training in September with coach Tim Vaught, who also serves as an assistant for UNC Charlotte's track-and-field program.