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Prep track and field: Once just happy to finish a race, Syracuse's Woodhall sets sights on besting own state record

Published May 18, 2017 7:47 pm

Prep track and field • The senior won two medals at the Rio Paralympic Games.
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Syracuse • At one time, Syracuse's Hunter Woodhall was more than satisfied just to be able to finish races.

But that wasn't what Woodhall was all about. Somewhere around the time he entered high school is when Woodhall, who has two prosthetic legs, decided that good wasn't good enough.

"I definitely struggled on the track until probably my freshman year," he said. "That's when I really started focusing and training on treating my body right with rest and diet and all those things. That's when I really started to realize that I could run with these people. After that, it was just putting in the work.

"Up until then, I was back in the pack — not winning any races. I kind of decided I was done losing and wanted to change things up a little bit."

The goal now?

"As a team, we'd like to get the state title," said Woodhall, who will compete in the Class 5A state track and field championships beginning Friday at BYU. "As an individual, I'd like to lower my 400-meter state record, break the 200-meter state record and win a few individual state titles."

There's no reason to doubt the Syracuse High senior won't be able to do it.

"I think I've made enough of a name for myself now that most of my competitors know me," Woodhall said. "Probably the best thing is that they respect me."

He won the 400 in 47.63 seconds, while taking third in the 200 in 22.26 seconds last year.

He eclipsed those times by going 46.70 in the 400 and 21.12 in the 200, this time at a fantastic venue. Woodhall finished third in the 400 race and second in the 200 at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"It was amazing. The energy that was in the stadium, to be able to share the moment with my family and friends — it was really a special moment," said Woodhall, who noted that he did get to experience that championship feeling in Brazil if only for a few moments.

"We actually won the 4x100 [relay] but were DQ'd after because of a handoff violation," he said.

Woodhall was born in Georgia, where it was discovered he had a congenital bone deficiency.

With both legs deformed and determined that he would be unable to walk, the decision was made to amputate both limbs when he was a year old.

Woodhall admits its tougher for him to stand in one place — sometimes steadying himself on somebody else — than to be in motion while wearing the prosthetics he uses to run.

"Hunter is just a fierce competitor," Syracuse track coach Brian Berrong said. "While he excels with the circumstances that he has, I think if he was in a situation where he had two legs like everybody else, he would also be successful because of his work ethic."

Woodhall will take that work ethic to the University of Arkansas. He becomes the first double amputee to earn a Division I track scholarship, according to the U.S. Paralympics team.

"Still the winningest NCAA program in track and field with an extremely strong 400-meter program," Woodhall said. "It's where I thought I'd be best as an athlete."






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