Boardman boys avenge 2012 regional letdown

BOARDMAN – Last season was tough on Boardman High School boys cross country coach John Phillips.

He and the rest of the Spartans thought 2012 would be their year they would send a team down to the state meet held at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

Instead, Boardman missed out on a bid to state by four points.

Saturday, the Spartans didn’t leave anything to chance as they convincingly won the Division I regional cross country meet over second-place Chardon, 94-117.

It all started after last year’s regional disappointment.

“Last year was our motivation,” Phillips said. “The drive, dedication and the work they put in starting this day last year has got them this.”

Hadley, who is arguably the best runner in the state, led Saturday’s race from wire-to-wire on his home course in a time of 15:22.50. Twinsburg’s Garrett Crichlow finished second for the second straight week to Hadley (15:31.99).

The top four teams and top 16 runners in all divisions advance to state.

“It’s great. My dream has come true from last year,” Hadley said. “This is the type of race I’ve been working for. Especially, I like getting that lead because next week is the week. Next week is the time when I completely empty my tank and see what I’m made of. Really, I wanted that lead so I could cruise in.”

Last thing Boardman wants to do next week is to cruise into next Saturday’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

“We don’t want to just get there, but do something there,” Phillips said. “That’s our goal next week. If we run similar, attitude-wise as we did today, on that nice, flat course next week we’re going to be in the mix.

“That’s all we can ask for.”

Besides Hadley, Boardman’s top five placed in the top 50. Alan Burns was seventh (16:05.06), Nathan was 19th (16:39.60), Justin Maroni was 34th (16:53.57) and Jacob Kelleck was 46th (17:04.88).

“My speech in the locker room was do your jobs,” Phillips said. “Take care of business. There wasn’t any race strategy or race tactics, look for this kid or that kid. Do you job. That’s what they’ve done all year.”

This year, Hadley won’t head to state with just a teammate or even alone. He’ll have his team with him as they travel to the state meet.

“It’s awesome. I can’t describe it with words,” Hadley said.

HAVING FUN: Howland’s Ryan Sullivan hasn’t stressed about these past few weeks. He’s just excelled.

Saturday’s regional run in which he qualified for state for the second straight year was proof of that.

“I’ve had a lot of fun to go out and run under 16 (minutes),” he said.

He came close to doing that again on Saturday as he placed fifth in the Division I race in a time of 16:02.52.

This is the second straight week Sullivan has placed in the top five. Only the likes of the Mark Hadleys and Garrett Crichlows have beat him so far.

“The last few weeks have been fun, honestly,” said Sullivan, whose team took 10th at regionals. “All that hard work in the summer and into the season is paying off, running the Tuesday meets. All that speed work paid off.”

CHAMPION’S STATE BOUND: Allen Sparks has led Champion most of the season. Saturday, he will represent them at the state meet.

“I’ve never tried this hard,” said Sparks, who finished fifth in the Division II boys race in a time of 16:45.79. “I tried my best in districts. I’m very happy I get to make it to state. I expected a better position and time, but I’m happy with where I am right now.”

Champion’s team made it to regionals, but finished eighth. Drew Dunlap and Nicholas Mackey were the next two Golden Flashes runners, finishing 31st and 33rd, respectively.

“I’m a little sad and little disappointed, but at least Champion gets to go to state,” Sparks said.

ONE POINT SHORT: McDonald’s girls cross country team has made it to state every year since 2009. Saturday, the streak was snapped.

Berkshire scored 124 to McDonald’s 125. Berkshire claimed the fourth and final qualifying spot. South Range was sixth (129) in Division III.

“I’m sick to my stomach, one point. Our girls, they work their butts off. That’s all I can say,” said McDonald coach Mike Richards, whose team last missed state in 2008.

The Blue Devils do have one representative at state – McDonald’s Heidi Hoffman, who took fourth (19:46.91).

“It is exciting to get an individual down there. She has the possibility to get all-Ohio (top 25),” Richards said.

COULD’VE DONE BETTER: Grand Valley’s Jessica Finley finished ninth in the Division II race in a time of 19:48.24.

Finley, who won last week’s district meet, ran with the front pack for a while.

“I was up there, then the mental stuff (took over),” she said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to go again and represent my school.”

Finley said next week she wants to run less than 19 minutes and place in the top 15.