After the most dramatic one-year improvement ever seen in Delaware cross-country – improving from 27th to first in the New Castle County meet – Jack Hagood continued to accelerate over the winter, becoming the fastest indoor miler in state history.
The Tatnall junior was named the state’s outstanding indoor track athlete in a season that featured two other double state champions – Lamar Bruton of Howard (400 and 200 meters) and Milford’s Ryan Thomas (long and triple jumps).
As is generally the case in indoor track, his new record in the mile, and his team’s in the distance medley relay, occurred out of state. In the New Balance Boston Indoor Games on Feb. 2, he ran a 4:17.34, breaking Salesianum’s Dom DellaPelle’s 2006 record by two-tenths of a second.
Two weeks earlier, at the Yale Invitational his 4:21.3 anchor in the 1,600, following Alex Giacco, Stephen Garrett and Henry Paul, lowered by 4 seconds the record that Giacco and Garrett set at the same meet last year with David Huffman and Sam Parsons.
Hagood’s natural asset is his stride.
“He’s very smooth on the track,” said Tatnall coach Patrick Castagno. “A coach knows that if someone’s smooth at a given pace, he’s probably going to be pretty efficient.”
Slowed as a freshman by a sore heel, he earned notice late in his sophomore year, finishing third at the state Meet of Champions with a 4:20 in the 1,600 meters that placed him among Delaware’s all-time top 25.
Over the summer, Hagood worked daily with Giacco and Garrett, whom he trailed by a full minute the previous fall. “I made it a goal to train with the guys who finished ahead of me sophomore year, to see what do I have and what can I do,” said Hagood.
The three took turns finishing first throughout the autumn, each making first-team All-State. Hagood won the two featured mid-season races: the Joe O’Neill Invitational at flat Bellevue and the county meet at hilly Winterthur.
What caused his dramatic improvement?
“Doing the extras at home,” said Hagood. “It’s a decision, to keep your body healthy, to get your homework done so you can get to bed early, to stretch out every night, work out in the weight room after practice, every day putting forth that little extra effort.
“You have to go out of your way to do it, but it really pays off,” he added. “Doing those things seems so simple but they’re among the hardest things to do.”
Hagood sets no limits on himself. At the state indoor championships, after roaring to a 4:18 victory in the 1,600 — a time bettered only by two other runners previously — he broke 2 minutes to win the 800, then entered the 3,200, trying for a three-event distance sweep accomplished only once, by Haley Pierce. Though he faded, he impressed his coach.
“He still showed great things,” said Castagno. “He takes chances that some people won’t take until later in their careers, or perhaps never.
“He’s worked himself up to where he can run much faster than he’s run so far. It’s a matter of staying healthy and having the right breaks,” the coach added.