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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Sports > General

20/20 on 2020 senior athletes: SW's Hunter Mall

Jun 29, 2020

By Richard Ross - reporter/photographer

Hunter Mall
LAKE HUNTINGTON- “Having the chance to play sports growing up teaches you all kinds of life lessons. It gives young people confidence and instills in them motivation and drive to be the best one can be. It is absolutely invaluable.”
So noted April Ross, World Champion beach volleyball player and two-time Olympian medalist. If there is one thing that has been a consistent thread throughout these months of 2020 senior athlete interviews, it is the recognition by these young men and women that their lives have been changed for the better by sports and that through their engagement with athletics they acquired lessons that will serve them throughout their lives.
For Sullivan West's Hunter Mall, a veteran football player and track competitor, words of gratitude and self-reflection about how sports altered his life from being incredibly shy to an interactive team leader embracing his role in the collective efforts are a main theme of his narrative.

“I really enjoyed learning about leadership and the responsibility to one's team. Coming into football I learned to play with guys I hardly knew,” he said.
Mall began both his football and track sojourns in seventh and eighth grade at the modified level. For the next two years he played on the junior varsity. It was in a game at Liberty that Mall recorded one of his most salient memories. A pass from quarterback Jason Lowe to Mall running a route from his wide receiver position was a bit short. Mall reached back and trapped the ball between his hands and his helmet for the improbable catch reminiscent of the one by New York Giant David Tyree in the final two minutes of Super Bowl XL11 in 2008.
Mall's other stunning moment came this past fall in the Sullivan West Homecoming victory over Fallsburg as Comets' star Jesse Acevedo went to catch a pass from Athan Zeno that was tipped into the hands of Mall who was right in front of his dad holding the chains at the side of the field.
But it hasn't all been glorious moments. Life never is. Two injuries hampered his career. The first was a torn quadricep muscle in the aforementioned Liberty game in his freshman year. The second was an enlarged spleen that could have been ruptured by a hard hit. That caused him to sit out much of his junior year. By the time he was cleared to play, the season was nearly over. By then Mall already had his eyes fixated on indoor and outdoor track. Those sports also dated back to a modified engagement in seventh grade.
In eighth grade he tested up to varsity and began as a distance runner but by the time he was a freshman, Mall was looking for new horizons to explore. “I convinced Coach Bauer to let me become a sprinter.”
From there he gravitated to hurdles, schooled by none other than multiple state champion hurdler Mike Mullally.
“The experience of being taught to run the hurdles by Mike is something I will never forget. The 400 hurdles is my favorite event. It takes strength and determination. The quarter mile requires speed and a strong core.”
Mullally's advice: “Run as hard and fast as you can and don't worry about a step count.”
Mall took to the event with joy and vigor. “It came naturally,” he recalls. At meets Mall would run the 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 relays, an exhausting gauntlet to say the least. Mall didn't run indoor this past winter as he was busy being Shrek, in “Shrek the Musical.” He had hoped that in this final track season he would surpass his personal best times in the hurdles but Covid-19 was a hurdle neither he nor his teammates could get over. Instead, the spreading virus wiped out all spring sports as schools closed.
Mall aspires to be a Physical Therapy Assistant. Orange County Community College offers a two-year program but Sullivan County Community College has many of the same prerequisite courses so Mall will stay local and attend SCCC for a year, then transfer his credits to Orange and begin practicing as a PT assistant to see how that goes. He may then choose to continue his schooling in PT to become a licensed Physical Therapist.
That would involve another five years of schooling.
“I enjoy helping people,” says Mall who developed many of his best qualities in scouting. Being an Eagle Scout and playing sports have combined to shape his view of himself and his desire to have a positive effect on others. Influential people in Mall's meteoric rise include his mom Tina, his dad Ed who was a football player in high school and opened up the world of sports to Hunter, his modified football coach John Hauschild, JV Coaches JP Lang and Dave Franskevicz, Mike Mullally and his varsity coach Ron Bauer.
Bauer taught Mall that sports can be fun but that you have to be serious to do your job. “
Sports has been a huge influence. It's taught me about responsibility and the need to make sacrifices. It's also helped me keep my grades up. I'll always treasure the lessons I've learned from sports. I wouldn't be the person I am without that experience,” Mall asserts.
While it is true that the Coronavirus did knock out sports this spring, it failed to overcome the quantum leaps in character gained by Mall and the other county seniors whose impressive high school careers are merely a prelude to lives destined to enrich, abet and support the people they will touch as they pay forward all the priceless treasures they've earned through the treasure trove of high school athletics.

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