By ERIC FORTUNE
As John Phillips sees it, his Boardman cross country squad has been building for this year over the last three seasons, thanks in large part to senior Mark Hadley.
Normally, Phillips’ runners don’t take Tuesdays too seriously as they decided to step up their games against the best teams in the state with the ultimate goal being able to see where they stack up against who they will hopefully see come November in Columbus.
“A lot of our Saturdays have been very competitive and because of that we use Tuesday as a training day for our top guys and not have them compete,” Phillips said. “This is the first year we’ve gone fully into doing that. We’ve seen the results. Mark doesn’t run a 15:07 on Saturday if we run hard on Tuesday.”
On Saturday, Phillips’ Spartans will compete in the Federal League Meet.
“Some programs choose to run hard both days,” he said. “We just feel at the end of the year, that’s a detrimate.”
But Tuesday at Austintown Township Park, the Spartans had the chance to capture their 12th straight Mahoning County championship, so while Hadley and fellow senior Mark Burns might not have run what they would normally do on a Saturday, they still controlled the race.
“Their first miles, they came out and ran 4:57, their second mile, they were 10:03 and 10:20 which is their tempo pace,” Phillips said. “This is the workout pace we have them do at practices. Normally on a Tuesday, this is what they would have done and it just so happens that their tempo pace was good enough to take first and second in the race.
“That doesn’t happen everywhere. It doesn’t happen with every athlete. They are very special athletes. They’re very unique. Our county is very good. Canfield and Austintown have very good teams. We’re just blessed to have an outstanding team. You have to enjoy the four years you have them.”
In the end the Spartans finished first with 28 points followed by Canfield (36) and Austintown Fitch (58) . It was a clean sweep for Boardman as the girls won the meet with 37 points thanks, to a first-place finish from Jordan Grantonic.
“It’s not my favorite course,” she said. “It’s a gradual uphill climb for most of it, but I felt stronger than I have before at this course.
“I think I’m starting to peak at the right time. My first couple of races were slower and I was trying to find my pace, but I think now I’m starting to fall into it. It’s starting to go well. I hope it continues.”
Hadley finished in 15:54. Despite running 47 seconds over his personal best, he outpaced Burns (16:23) by 29 seconds as four Boardman runners finished in the top-10 overall.
“I felt nice and strong,” Hadley said. “I was making sure I was hitting my splits, trying to be nice and even — just saving up for this Saturday. There is going to be some good competition there.”
Hadley is a special athlete that Phillips says has done amazing things for the Spartans this season. Just 10 days ago, Hadley held the fastest time in the nation at 15:07.
“He was No. 1 in the U.S. for an hour and half,” Phillips said.