OHIO CITY, Oh - In the pioneer era of lacrosse at Saint Ignatius, Dan Hayden '96 stood out.
As a freshman in 1992, the team had only been a varsity sport since 1988. Along with other players who had older siblings on the team, Dan jumped right in and enticed buddies from his St. James parish in Lakewood to join him.
Growing up with four older brothers and an older sister, Dan loved the speed and physicality of basketball and football. He soon discovered that he could run fast and score often with a lacrosse stick in his hand and didn't need the bulk of a football player. He fell in love with lacrosse and never looked back.
Founding head coach Ed Aghajanian saw potential in the scrappy young guys and pushed them to work as a team. With only a few local schools as competition, they did a lot of traveling. "Those were fun road trips to cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit," recalls Dan. "We surprised a lot of people. We were the first team from Ignatius to have a good run in the playoffs, making the top bracket in the Midwest tournament."
By graduation, Dan owned every Saint Ignatius lacrosse scoring record but one. In his senior year, he earned 65 goals and 102 points (one point for each goal and assist) and was the first player to reach 100 points in a season. He received 1st team All-State and All-Midwest attackman honors in his senior year.
Several NCAA Division III universities recruited Dan but chose to walk on at Boston College, a Division I school where he played lacrosse for all four years. After graduating with a degree in math, he headed to Colorado as a ski bum for a few years before returning to Cleveland. He coached lacrosse and was inspired to become a teacher – a job that allowed him to coach.
He has been teaching math and coached at a public high school north of Boston, coaches youth lacrosse teams for both his sons and serves as director of the boys' program in his town of Melrose, MA.
"Sports had a huge impact on my life and still does. It made me a leader by example and taught me to be part of something bigger than myself. And it's fun! When I coach kids, I say if you're not having fun, let's do something else!"
What Dan loved most at Saint Ignatius was the camaraderie with teammates. "It was not cliquey. From the best player to the benchwarmer, we supported each other and often hung out. A group of us are still in close contact and get together once a year."
At their most recent gathering, teammate Garen Distelhorst '96 surprised Dan with news of his induction into the Hall of Fame. "I was shocked and speechless and humbled to be included in that group of athletes. I'm going in as an individual, but a lot is due to my teammates."
Dan Hayden lives in Melrose, MA, with his wife Liz and sons Finn (11) and Harper (10).
Dan will be inducted into the Saint Ignatius Athletic Hall of Fame on August 12 at Wildcats Roar. Tickets for the event are still available.