In the past several years, Pentwater High School has emerged as a power program at its level, and few have had more to do with it than Julia Hall.
Hall spent the past five years in Falcons’ purple and gold, and in that time she helped the volleyball team win five district titles, led the track team’s turnaround, and helped the girls basketball team to district championship heights.
“There is no doubt that Julia has left a legacy and an impact on Pentwater athletics that will not be matched for a very long time,” Pentwater cross-country and track coach Erika Fatura said.
Indeed, Hall’s biggest standout role came on the track. She holds three school records in indoor track (60 meters, 200 meters, long jump) and three outdoor records (100 meters, 200 meters, long jump) as well as being part of the 400 relay school record. She capped her career in the sport by competing at state this year in three events, taking sixth in long jump, 10th in the 200 and 15th in the 100.
So successful was Hall that she won the girls track team’s most valuable player award in all four of her varsity seasons, leading the team in scoring each year. She said she drew interest from Davenport University to compete in track, though she ultimately decided to eschew college sports and attend Western Michigan. She said her major is undecided at this point.
The growth of the track team in particular in Hall’s time has been remarkable. State participation was not common among Falcon track athletes when Hall first joined the team, but as her coaches put it, while they used to bring Pentwater to the state meet in their cars, this year they needed a bus as the track teams qualified in 10 events, Hall’s included. That improvement is all the more remarkable since the school doesn’t have a track, though Hall said that may inadvertently create an advantage for Falcon athletes.
“That’s kind of a big step for our school,” Hall said. “Just from being a freshman to senior year, our numbers have grown so much. That’s been a big part of my career...Even though we don’t have a track, it’s still ok. I think that does help, actually, running on the dirt, because like boxers box underwater, fighting the dirt (makes us stronger).”
While Hall’s individual numbers weren’t as gaudy in her other two varsity sports as on the track, the teams’ successes spoke for themselves. Hall was one of the Falcons’ top all-around players in volleyball in her upperclass years, stepping into the leadership role previously held by Pentwater luminaries like Linnea McDonough, Emily Gebhart, Anna Hofmann and Taylor Wilkinson.
“Julia is the athlete every coach wants,” Falcon volleyball coach Kerry Newberg said. “(She is the) hardest worker, kind, a leader, humble and constantly striving to be her best and, most importantly, brings out the best in others. I am not sure how her gap will ever quite be filled.”
Julia said she gained leadership skills from watching those prior Pentwater seniors, and that helped her to be ready to become a leader herself when her time came. Like the seniors before, she led the Falcons to a district title.
“I’ve had great leaders, (like) Linnea, Anna and Emily, when I was in eighth grade, that showed me that we can have fun, but we can also win district titles and go on to regionals and do well in regionals,” Hall said. “I was finally able to step into that position, and I loved it.”
In basketball, Hall played point guard, and she used her athleticism to great effect running the fast break as well as on defense. As a junior, she helped Pentwater win one of its three conference titles in its history, and this past year, the team earned only its second district title. She averaged over 12 points per game as a senior and led the Falcons in steals.
For coach Joe Gorton, what stood out about Hall was her hard work, as well as her humble attitude despite all of her success.
“Julia was the one of the first girls in the gym and last to leave,” Gorton said. “She was highly coachable, and was eager to learn new moves and ideas. She was a captain her senior season and was exemplary. She led by example, and was great at working with the younger teammates and incorporating them into the team.
“With all the success Julia has had in the classroom and in athletics, I am continually amazed by how humble she is. Even though she was fiercely competitive, she let her actions on the court do the talking. She never spoke poorly towards opponents, and always welcomed a challenge.”
Admiration of her character is a common thread among Hall’s coaches. Newberg said Hall is “an even better person” than she is an athlete.
“She has a competitive spirit, but also a true respect for athletic talent and the other athletes she is competing against,” Fatura added. “Julia has been a leader and a role model on the team. Her dedication, sense of humor, kindness, and work ethic were contagious and helped to bring many other athletes into the sport of track.”
In turn, Hall said she considers herself fortunate to have competed at Pentwater, feeling she got the best of the small-school experience while having success at the level of a larger school.
“I think I’m really lucky to have ended up in Pentwater,” Hall said. “We have had a really good pool of athletes in the time I’ve been there. I always think, I could’ve ended up in any other school, surrounding area, but I’ve just been really lucky.
“Obviously, my coaches this year have been awesome. It’s just been a great ending senior season. I’m excited for the next step, but I’m also really lucky to have Pentwater and all the great athletes that are there.”
Although Hall is leaving organized sports behind in college, the skills she gained from them should set her up well for success, Fatura said. Hall added that she is looking forward to focusing on academics at WMU, not that she hasn’t been impressive academically already; Fatura said she earned academic all-state honors in each of her four varsity track seasons.
“It goes without saying that I will miss her a lot, but I know that her personal attributes will take her far as she starts her next journey,” Fatura said.