COLUMBUS - Boardman High School junior Mark Hadley knew full well what last year's Division I 3,200 felt like.
Sixth place. Nine minutes, 16.15 seconds. Nowhere near where he fathomed.
Saturday, at the state track and field meet inside Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, things changed.
He was more prepared for the pace and for his mental anguish to overtake his weary body in the final laps.
"Sometimes I think about failing, what it feels like to give up at that point, how crappy it feels on the way home driving back - that 3-hour ride thinking about giving up," Hadley said. "I was dealing with that last year and I just didn't like it."
This year, he liked the outcome. Hadley ran a personal-best time of 9:05.66 and placed third in the state.
"I'm kind of speechless right now, that exceeded my expectations," Hadley said. "I was hoping to come out here and break 9:10, hopefully top three."
The top eight in each final are all-Ohio honorees.
As for the Warren G. Harding girls 4x100 relay team of Aminah Wesley, Chyna Stroud, Gariana Bercheni and Justice Richardson, they ran 48.08 to place eighth.
"First 4x100 that made it this far. I was just impressed with that," Wesley said.
Wesley is the team's only senior. Richardson and Bercheni are freshmen and Stroud is a sophomore. With the core of the team returning next season, Wesley thinks this team is in good hands for 2014.
"They're all coming back down here," she said. "I have all hope and faith in them. I was so happy to share this experience with them this year."
Austintown Fitch sophomore Joe Harrington, the 4x200 anchor, is looking forward to next year as well. The Falcons sprinter saw his relay take fourth (1:27.15) after posting the best state semifinal time on Friday.
"We were mentally prepared. It was just the little mistakes we had," Harrington said.
The 4x100 took sixth (42.22), and Fitch's Sam Ortz took fifth in the 110 hurdles (14.69).
"Today we set our goals high," Harrington said. "We came out and tried our best. Hope to be back down here next year at the state meet.
"We made it down here, that was our goal. It just didn't go as we planned."
Things didn't go as planned for Hadley, especially when he briefly took the lead, passing state champion Sam Wharton of Tippecanoe, who almost broke last year's state meet record of 8:55.04, set by Reynoldsburg's Tsehaye Hiluf. Wharton ran 8:56.61 and Chardon's Nick Elswick was behind, running 9:00.43.
"It just felt natural and slow for the first mile. I tried to make a little move there about lap 5," Hadley said. "They took it back over. At that point I was hanging on and they established that I was going to get a fast time.
"Almost any other year, I probably would've won and blown everybody else away. It's just something in the water these last couple of years. Everybody has gone crazy. It was fast, fast, fast."