It was a gorgeous day...
Saturday, September 26, at Gans Creek Recreation Area on the south end of Columbia. It was not perfect though. The photographer in Greg Hall would have preferred more thin cloud coverage to filter the sunshine and soften the light on the athletes he loved to photograph. He also would have preferred less wind, which blew the big, thick clouds thru quickly, creating moments of full sunlight instantly followed by shade, changing the lighting conditions and making his job tougher as he sought good exposure and color for his images.
Hall would have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to capture and share moments that parents and fans would miss or only see on the webcast as spectators were prohibited at the 2nd Annual Gans Creek Classic cross country meet, due to Coronavirus restrictions. The five divisions and ten varsity races that were held, were spread out over eight hours with 30-minute breaks between each division, allowing for a much lower amount of contact between the 1,200-plus athletes and their coaches that were on hand throughout the day compared to a normal meet.
However, what Greg Hall would have really loved, and humbly said he wasn't worthy of, was what happened at 1:30 p.m., as well as what will happen in the next year and what has happened since his sudden passing on January 2nd. It was at 1:30 p.m. that Columbia Parks and Recreation director Mike Griggs began the groundbreaking ceremony for the Greg Hall Champions Plaza. The awards area at the year-old, world-class Gans Creek Cross Country course, was to be named after the health care software company administrator who was a beloved columnist, reporter, photographer, and champion for young athletes. Family, friends, and Columbia Parks and Recreation department and Mizzou staff gathered for the socially distant groundbreaking ceremony. Greg's wife Donna and their two sons, Shannon and Dustin were there to move a little dirt and honor their husband and father.
Since his death, current Lafayette High School head girls cross country coach and former Lafayette boys assistant coach Steven Stallis and Jeffrey Hindman, father of former Lafayette superstar Austin, spearheaded an effort to have Greg honored at the new facility in Columbia. The pair worked with Columbia Parks and Recreation staff to design plans for the venue and then spearheaded a fundraising campaign to build it in Greg's name. In just a short few months, the $40,000 necessary was raised to make the project happen: GoFundMe
A small, socially distanced ceremony was held with family and friends in attendance, including Greg's wife Donna and two sons: Shannon and Austin. Blue Springs High School boys cross country coach Frank Gallick spoke about his friend whom he first observed as just another eager parent photographer who seemed to be a little too close to the action and sometimes got in the way. However, Gallick saw Hall grow from a "typical parent" and amateur photographer to an excellent craftsman who captured some of Coach Gallick's most memorable moments through a camera lens.
Gallick added "It got to where, when you went to a race...if you saw Greg there, you knew it was a big race. It was like 'This is Prime Time, this is pretty cool, my photos are going to be on MO MileSplit, I'm going to have something (about me) out there'." Greg was the ultimate cheerleader and ambassador for the athletes and their sport. Gallick said, "...he became an ambassador for the sport of cross country and track and field. We don't get a lot of publicity, we're not in the paper a lot, but when you saw Greg there, it was like 'Man, I'm going to have some good pictures, I'm going to check out MO MileSplit, to see that finish, to see this person running.' It was like he knew as a parent, he knew as a runner, he knew what those moments were about."
Gallick talked about Hall's development and acceptance from athletes, "I remember when he first started, he would get the teams to stand all together like 'Hey, let me get a picture of you.', and you'd be like 'who is this guy, why is he making us do this?' But after a while you look and you go, 'Man, I'm glad he did that', and then he got to where he didn't ask you, he just was very subtle about it, he started to pick up on it and notice it. One of my favorite pictures of my team is from the year we won state. They were all standing together, and you saw this focus, and it was just like 'That's what we want to see,' and it was just awesome."