If you hear Sharay Hale and Austin Hollimon call each other ‘cousin’ this season, don’t be surprised.
“We have been saying we are cousins since our freshman year,” says Hale. “We are cousins in our Ivy League family. We are related on both sides of our families I would say, the Ivy League side and the track & field side.”
And now, after spending what would have been their senior year of college away from campus, the two have even more in common.
There were different paths last year. Hale was sidelined by an injury that robbed her of the speed that made her an All-American for Columbia. Hollimon opted to take time off from Princeton to pursue a dream — making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
It was nearly two years ago now that the two were really upping their games. At the Indoor Heps at The Armory in 2011, Hollimon became the first Ivy Leaguer to break 47 in a 400m qualifying round en route to his title. Hale did the same with the 54-second barrier, busting through it in both the trials and finals, adding a conference record in the 200 to boot.
But by the late spring Hale was ailing while Hollimon was making national noise on Princeton’s record breaking 4x400m relay as he anchored a 3:05.86 team with Tom Hopkins, Russell Dinkins and Mike Eddy in 45.7 at the NCAA East Regional. The last time Hale ran for the Light Blue was that same regional, bowing out with a heavily-bandaged upper leg.
The Detroit native would have surgery on her hip and has spent most of the interim, “rehabbing, rehabbing, rehabbing and still rehabbing … Going from not walking to running again still seems surreal at times. I cannot believe that last year I could not lift my own leg, now I am lifting it with weights.”
Right now it is impossible to tell if she can reclaim her place at the top of the game. She won’t try to assess where she is physically at this moment in her journey, but her spirit is certainly soaring. “I am 200% as far as my dedication, passion and love for running,” she offered. “The satisfaction I get from setting a goal, the grueling journey trying to attain it and then grasping it, is a feeling I cannot fathom at times, but it is so rewarding.”
Hale has found that among the rewards is the discovery that she is surrounded by a community that has appreciated and supported her throughout.
“I have met so many amazing people and it still astonishes me how so many people gain joy from me just doing what I love to do,” she said. “If I can inspire or motivate anyone to do something positive or giving them hope that they can attain any goal they may have in mind and heart by just sharing my gift and my passion for running, then I will know this journey was worth it. And in that sense I am 100% satisfied.
“My coaches, friends, and family — included in this is my Ivy League family, spectators, teammates, classmates, alums, fellow Ivy leaguers and their families — are great people and without them I would have not thought twice about returning to Ivy League sports. It has been and will continue to be a long comeback, but the Ivy League makes me feel at home and I am happy to be returning back home.”
Her expectations for her final collegiate season are not muddled in benchmarks. “You should expect to see and be a part of my journey, as it is a journey that is absent of any time and specific dates, to getting back to where I would like to be,” she said, sounding a bit like Coach Willy Wood. “I still have the same drive and passion.”
Hale was as excited to get back into her studies as she was to the track. “After all,” she says. “The degree is the Ultimate win.”
In the next few days we will profile cousin Austin Hollimon, who said, “The Ivy League without [Hale] on the other side of the 400 would have been weird.”