by Gregory L. Gamble II
Sometimes, you can look at a young adult, and see the gleaming yet subtle radiance of greatness that they exude. You can see the potential that higher powers have endowed upon them to fulfill a greater purpose. Makaila Hall, a 14-year-old swimmer from Buffalo is the most recent example of this type of experience.
A 9th grader at Buffalo Public School 156 Frederick Law Olmstead, she swims for both the Buffalo Public School Swim Club and Velocity Aquatics Swim Club, in (5) different events; the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly, and her most prominent event the 100-yard breaststroke. This past Sunday at Sweet Home highschool, I had the opportunity to watch Makaila in action at the SHAQ 2018 open swim meet where club Velocity Aquatics competed.
At the start gun,7 poised focused swimmers launched form their starting blocks, competing to see who was the fastest and also
looking to beat their fastest individual times. Makaila Hall found an advantage among all the other swimmers, her muscular 5’4” frame staying in the air for almost a half second longer covering far more distance than she would have, had she entered the water a half second sooner and like an epiphany, you’ve witnessed a glimpse of greatness. Makaila has been swimming for about 4 years now. She started in 5th grade where she swam for the modified team at Olmstead.
Cameron and Jacqueline Hall are the proud parents of Makaila and were also both student-athletes in high school. Makaila is the youngest of two. Her father Cameron Hall recalled “we found out that she might actually be good at this, so we made the adjustments to keep her involved.” Those adjustments included 3 day weekends for swim meets, 2 hours of swim practice 5 days a week and a financial commitment on aquatic gear. But Makaila has proven to be more than just good. Makaila Hall is on her way to being great. In the 7th grade, she took a swim test to prove that she was capable of competing at the varsity level and passed.
Typically, varsity swimmers have to be in 9th grade or higher. Currently, as a 9th grader, she competes at the varsity level in heats with swimmers ages 13 and over. This past October, Makaila broke a 28-year-old record in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:11:39, followed by breaking her own record in November in the same event with a time of 1:10:72. She’s made it clear that she looks up to Alize Allen, a Buffalo Public School standout swimmer who holds 9 out of 11 school and city pool records and received a full scholarship to Canisius College where she swam during the 2016-2017 season.
In 2017, USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport of swimming in the U.S., found that 64 percent of African-American children have low or no swimming ability. They also found that black children and their parents are three times more fearful of drowning than white children and their parents. Despite these odds, Makaila has found a way to achieve in the sport. She isn’t alone. Her best friend, Melhea Gachetti, is an 11th grader and standout swimmer at City Honors who has been swimming for 8 years.
Makaila has made the connection between superior academics and superior athletics and understands they are a vital piece in becoming an elite student-athlete. In asking Makaila about her academics, her face lit up with a humongous smile as she replied “For the first time in my life, I’m on the honor roll and have a 90 average. I really want to go to college to swim and I understand that I have to be an excellent student to do so, and I’ve started studying more and preparing for that. I want to keep getting good grades,” she said.
Outside of swimming, Makaila is a very involved student. She has participated in the University at Buffalo Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), the National Grid Engineering Camp, and is apart of Olmstead’s Student Council as the Community Relations representative. “I’m motivated and determined. If I set out to accomplish something, I want you to know that I’m going try and accomplish that goal,” she said.
The Community believes in you Makaila and is in FULL support your aspirations with the hopes you will go far beyond your
dream of swimming at the Division 1 level. You have Odds- 2Beat! So be diligent, be excellent, execute and BE GREAT!