Feb. 23, 2014
Photo Gallery | Kristina Hull's Team USA Bio
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss head football strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson and his fiancée, Kristina Hull, have watched the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia with a trained eye.
Hull would rather be competing than watching, and she made a run at doing just that as an Olympic hopeful in the skeleton.
The Colorado Springs native played softball at Georgia Tech, and then after college, she was a graduate assistant strength coach at LSU, where she met Jackson, who was then an assistant strength coach working with the Tiger football and volleyball teams.
While at LSU, one of Hull's co-workers, Juan Pablo Reggiardo, knew Olympic bobsledder Valerie Fleming and told her that she should give the event a shot. Hull got in touch with Fleming and learned about the combine, where USA Bobsled & Skelton identify talent.
"I always had this dream to be in the Olympics," Hull said. "My father (Mitch Hull) was an alternate for the 1984 Olympics in wrestling, and then he was the U.S. National Team Director for USA Wrestling. We grew up in Colorado Springs, where the U.S. Olympic Trainer Center is located. He's been to every Olympics working for them since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. I grew up around the Olympics. I love it, and I love Bob Costas, the Olympic music and everything."
Getting ready for the combine, most of the tests were about strength and power, such as power cleans, sprints and squats, which were similar to things she had previously done as a student-athlete and later a graduate assistant coach. Her preparation for the combine, Jackson said, not only helped her grow as an athlete but also develop as a coach.
"He knows I dream big, and he was so supportive," said Hull of Jackson. "At the beginning, I needed a lot of help with my speed work, and he's a beast at strength and conditioning and speed work, so he really coached me through my speed work. He's a coach, so he always knew what to say. He knew what I needed to get out of every weight training session to get better, and if he needed to get on me, he got on me. He was my biggest supporter. He was awesome."
After the combine in 2010, Hull decided on the sport of skeleton, in which a person rides a small sled down a frozen track while laying face down. She participated in the 2010-11 America's Cup and placed 10th in Lake Placid and 11th in Calgary.
Hull's Olympic journey continued with a 14th-place showing in the 2012-13 North American Cup and a 10th-place finish at the 2013 National Championships. She continued to train and compete leading up to the 2014 Olympic Trials in October 2013.
"The top two females get to go to the Olympics, and the rest of us either fly on a different circuit or practice until the next Olympic year," Hull said. "Everything builds to the Olympics. You have four years of practice, and then you try to make the Olympic team every four years."
Over the two-day Olympic trials in Park City, Utah, Hull finished 16th and 14th, respectively. Katie Uhlaender, now a three-time Olympian, and Noelle Pikus-Pace, a two-timer, earned the two women's spots to represent the United States in skeleton.
At the Olympic event in Sochi, 20 competitors completed four runs over two days, Feb. 13-14, and medals were awarded based on total time over the four runs, with the winner having the lowest overall time. Pikus-Pace won the silver medal, while Uhlaender was a mere 0.04 seconds from the medal stand.
"It's cool to see the people that I have competed against the last four years represent our country and do well," Hull said. "It's hard at the same time because you want to be there."
"I met a lot of the people when I went to the training, so it was cool to see people who she's friends with and I met compete on the highest stage," Jackson added. "I was kind of worried, and I wasn't sure if she would be upset watching the Olympics. She's been enjoying it, and it made me get into it."
Hull said she has decided to not go through the next Olympic cycle, because she's ready to focus on her career and family. She is currently a personal trainer and will soon make the decision whether to continue with personal training or get back into strength and conditioning. Hull and Jackson are set to be married on May 17.
"It was an amazing opportunity," said Hull of her experience with skeleton. "It was a true blessing that I got to do it because not many people get to live out their dream, and I did that. I got to compete with Olympians for four years. I did not make it to the Olympics, but my teammates did. Being able to make it to the Olympic trials was a dream come true. It was one of the coolest things to happen to me.
"The best thing is that since the Olympics have been on TV, people know about skeleton. And that's really fun for me. Hopefully, they remember for more than 10 minutes after the Olympics are over."
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller