Senior athlete adjusts to new sport after last year’s season ending injury

HunterBy: Allie Taiber

Knocked out of consciousness, the stadium lights bore down on senior Hunter Lavallee, lying numb and inanimate, as he feared what was to come.

On Aug. 28 of 2014, the Tigers played a season changing game. In the third quarter with four yards to go, holding the Iowa City High Little Hawks for the first three downs, little did the varsity cornerback know this play would change his high school sports career.

The Little Hawks lined up in punt formation, but Lavallee was suspicious of a fake. His suspicions came true, and he took off in pursuit of the ball carrier. The punter cocked the ball back to throw, and Lavallee was in trouble as the receiver he was covering was running free. He planted his foot in the ground and reversed on a dead sprint of recovery and tackled the opponent off the field, landing with devastating impact onto the long jump runway.

“I couldn’t feel anything, but I knew something was wrong; I couldn’t stand up,” Lavallee said.

Consumed by confusion, he had no idea what was going on. The injury team rushed over and helped him to his feet.

“Looks like you’ll be out for half the season,” City High injury specialist said after popping Lavallee’s dislocated shoulder back into place. As the words seeped into his heart, he was crushed. Holding the third most tackles on the sophomore team the year before and being the third fastest 800m runner in the state; coaches, teammates and Lavallee feared for what the future would hold.

After working hard in physical therapy, Lavallee was back on the field playing safety in no time. “Although I was back, nothing was the same,” Lavallee said. With the shoulder injury hanging over his head, he was never able to stop the health problems.

The next summer Lavallee attended a football prep passing tournament at Iowa State University. Incapable of competing to full potential since last fall, his shoulder popped out once again, and he prayed to God for answers. “I asked him for a sign whether I should do football or cross country. After my shoulder popped out again. I knew I couldn’t argue with God. The team would have to go on without me,” Lavallee said.

Although disappointed he wouldn’t be playing, the coaches were nothing but supportive. Varsity football coach Brad Remmert said, “I was disappointed for Hunter more than anything. Hunter was a returning starter on defense that really enjoyed playing football and being a part of the football program. But, Hunter is an excellent runner. He’s a tremendous competitor, and I am sure he will do great in both cross country and track during his senior year,”

So, he started practice with the cross country team in early August. “Nobody really understands how hard cross country is until they do it,” Lavallee said.

Both football and cross country are extremely physically demanding, but in very opposite ways. “Football is all about short term memory. Stop go, stop go, creating a fast twitch muscle. But in cross country, you basically learn how to endure and suffer all five kilometers,” Lavallee said.

It’s caused him to set high expectations for himself, and to learn how to be patient with those expectations, but through the support of the team and coach Troy Becker, he couldn’t wish for a better outcome of the situation. “Cross country is the best team environment I’ve ever been in,” Lavallee said. “Everyone is so encouraging.”

He continues to stay positive and do his very best, setting a personal record by over a minute and a half last Thursday at the meet.

“We just want him to have a good experience and find out what it’s like to do cross country,” Becker said. “We were really excited to have him join us. He’s a good leader, and he brings another positive attitude to the group. He’s also very willing to do the hard work required.”

But as he sits back in the stands of the UNI Dome, it’s hard for him to watch. “I’m happy for them, but I feel a sense of self pity for myself. Those were the kids I grew up with every year on the field. It’s hard to watch, not being a part of it anymore,” Lavallee said.

But in his eyes, it all happened for a reason.

As of last year, football was his identity. “I became so involved. I ate, slept and breathed football,” Lavallee said. “I think my injury was a sign from God I was taking too much attention away from him. With the surgery, the recovery would give me time to reconnect with my faith.”

His journey continues to help him with his relationship with God. In James 1:2-3, the Bible discusses the importance of staying joyful through trial because in the end these trials give one the abilities to grow. These verses hit home with Lavallee as they’ve helped him immensely through the tough times.

On that August game night just over one year ago, Lavallee’s eyes flashed from the field to his team and back into himself, and he laid hopeless and afraid. The fear of not knowing the unknown consumed his entire career, but by taking a chance on himself and his faith, Lavallee now races with his dreams to the finish line.

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