Newark’s Toby Hardwick broke the school record in his first state meet.
Did he leave wanting more, however?
“I honestly couldn’t,” Hardwick said. “I was shooting for the school record. I tried to stick with the top pack, hang on for dear life, and I kind of pulled it out the last half mile.”
Hardwick, a junior, ran a time of 15:54.51 to place 28th in the Division I state meet Saturday at National Trail Raceway. Hardwick broke the school record by eight seconds, and he put a stellar cap on what was a memorable season.
Hardwick is The Advocate’s 2012 Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
“Toby is built to be a runner,” Newark coach Randy Noftz said. “He just works so hard during the season because he has that attitude that he doesn’t want to be beat.”
Hardwick, a regional qualifier each of his first two seasons, was on a mission from the first gun this season. Pushed every step by senior teammate Kameron Carpenter, Hardwick won at Newark Catholic, Watkins Memorial and Marion Harding during the regular season.
The Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division meet, however, is when Hardwick took another step. Hardwick and Carpenter tag-teamed against Lancaster’s Adam Wise. Hardwick slipped past Wise for the title on Wise’s home course, and Carpenter was just seven seconds behind.
“They figured out they were racing people,” Noftz said. “They weren’t racing the clock all of the time. I told them, ‘Sooner or later, you will get the time you want.'”
The duo was not to be denied from that point. Hardwick was sixth and Carpenter 11th as the district race at Watkins became simply a matter of survival on a muddy terrain.
“Lancaster is just a really tough course with hills and open fields,” Hardwick said. “We run hard at practices, usually in hills. We are always running in the rain, so we are just really used to the tough terrain and really bad weather.”
The dream appeared to be done early in the regional race. Hardwick and Carpenter, who usually start aggressively, were lagging behind. They still were outside of qualifying at the halfway point.
The pair started the third mile just beyond the top 16 and qualifying position for state. They made a mad dash to the finish — Hardwick placing eighth and Carpenter 12th.
“They really impressed me at the regional meet,” Noftz said. “They were at 50th and 70th at the mile marker, and they ran all the way up to eighth and 12th. They really learned how to run an even split or even pick it up.”
The pressure was not a factor at the state meet. An incredible 40 runners were separated by three seconds or less at the mile mark, and Hardwick and Carpenter were in the pack. Hardwick still was in 31st at the second mile.
Hardwick never lost his spot, finishing just shy of All-Ohio honors as an impressive 37 runners broke 16 minutes on a day that featured perfect running conditions. Carpenter was 39th in 16:02.14, also breaking Dylan Lewis’ school record.
“It was basically a competition even on the easy days,” Hardwick said. “We just pushed the body to the limits pretty much every day of the season.” We were just striving to hit the school record.”
Hardwick admittedly never has been a good off-season runner, he is a classic case of racing into shape.
He already is turning over a new leaf. He celebrated his breakout season with 15 miles on Monday and another 16 1/2 the next day.
Next season is nine months away.
“I was a little frustrated because I ran in the 15:50s, so I was expecting at least top 25,” Hardwick said. “Three places and two seconds away from All-Ohio, I can’t really get mad about it considering the fact my last two years I haven’t even made it to state.”