By ERIC MAUK
Boardman senior Mark Hadley has spent nearly his entire year of cross country by himself on the course, a fact that caught him off guard when he heard voices 100 feet away on Saturday.
The senior Spartan took control from the start in Saturday’s title race at the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Championships, and appeared to have never been headed on his way to the Division I boys title.
Looking to cap a high school season in which he had yet to be beaten, Hadley was more than six seconds in front at the two-mile mark, but reached down for something extra after hearing an unfamiliar sound.
“I thought I heard a few guys about 30 meters behind me at about the two-mile mark and I haven’t had that happen much all year,” Hadley said. “So I was a little concerned that they were gaining on me. But when I made the last turn, someone told me that I had 50 meters on the field, so I just made my final kick and tried to finish strong.”
Hadley turned in a winning time of 15:10.63 to win the first boys title in school history. His time was the second-best Division I state-meet effort of the last 12 years, and gave him a cushion of more than 10 seconds over runner-up Toby Hardwick of Newark.
“I don’t know if my face showed it, but inside, I was smiling all the way down the final stretch,” Hadley said. “I’ve been training for this for along time and to see it come true is awesome. To be undefeated this year is just icing on the cake.”
Hadley led a Spartan team that finished fourth in the final Division I team standings, falling to a near-record performance by Cincinnati St. Xavier. Boardman senior Alan Burns broke the 16-minute mark with a 15:59.47 effort to finish 21st, while senior Jacob Kelleck also finished in the top 50 with a time of 16:42.26.