Boardman’s Hadley ends perfect season with title

HEBRON – Mark Hadley had the equivalent of baseball’s perfect game.

The Boardman High School senior came into Saturday’s Division I state cross country meet winning every single race he entered.

When he crossed the finish line and ripped off his black headband, Hadley realized perfection in a time of 15:10.63 – winning the state individual title at National Trail Raceway.

“I don’t know if it was on my face, but I was smiling,” Hadley said. “Just to see my dreams come true was really, really great.”

He is the first Boardman cross country runner to win state since Laurie Gomez did so from 1985-87 in Class AAA.

“That wasn’t even a goal coming into the season. That kind of happened,” Hadley said. “That’s icing on the cake to be undefeated like that, but my job isn’t finished yet. My real goal is (Midwest regional and nationals) Foot Locker at the end of November. I’m really going to get ready for that and see what I can do.”

Hadley, who is heading to Furman University in South Carolina next season, said he had some moments of nervousness during the race.

“I made a wrong step,” Hadley said. “It made me nervous. Even though I did that, I went our really hard. I was thinking, ‘Oh man. What if they’re making a move on me? What if they catch up?’ I heard some guys 30 meters back from me around the 2-mile mark. That’s not something I’ve encountered this year. I’ve had one guy challenge me and that was (Chardon’s) Nick Elswick (at the Spartan Invitational). To have people that close was kind of scary for me. I really tried to dig deep and push. Coming up that last half mile, I heard, ’50 meters back.’ I was like, ‘OK. Got it.’ I made my final move and finished strong.”

He and teammate Alan Burns, who took 21st in a time of 15:59.47, paced the Spartans to a fourth-place finish with 160 points. Cincinnati St. Xavier won with 46 points, followed by Dublin Jerome (105) and Hillard Davidson (154).

Coming to this year’s state meet was much more satisfying for Hadley, not because he won state, but because his team made the trip as well – something they came up a couple points short of last year.

“We were supposed to make it,” Hadley said. “We beat all the teams earlier in the season and we missed it by three last year. Coming down here I was mildly depressed to say the least and that carried over a little bit. This year, everybody was happy, upbeat and I was just ready to run.”

Meanwhile, Howland’s Ryan Sullivan took 11th in Saturday’s race in a time of 15:46.92. He also was named all-Ohio. The top 25 in each race receives that honor, while the top 16 make the podium.

“Starting cross country my eighth-grade year, I can’t think of anything better than coming back my senior year and finally being able to achieve a goal like this,” Sullivan said.

He was motivated by runners like Hadley and Burns this season.

“Mark Hadley, every since I started running, has been one of the top runners, for at least, my class,” Sullivan said. “Overall, I know he’s done really well, too. Running with people like Mark really pushes me to be the best that I can be and get up with them.

“I think Alan and I are close to each other. It really helps to know someone from a different school. We both push each other during the race.”