by Pat McManamon '75
The competitive nature of Mark Blades ’06 comes as no surprise to anyone who knows a little bit about his family.
Mark’s sister Jackie and brothers Gavin ’05 and Luke ’11 all had outstanding high school careers and went on to play collegiate soccer. Jane, their mother, played basketball for Case Western Reserve University. Edward, their father, ran track for Harvard.
“I got a little bit of my mom’s fiery nature that I’ve learned more about since becoming her friend more than just her son,” Mark says. “My brother and I were 16 months apart, and I started playing soccer when he did. Basically I wanted to do everything he did.
“We all competed like crazy over everything. Including some one-on-one stuff in the backyard that sometimes ended badly. I think that’s where I honed my competitive, win-at-all-costs attitude.”
It all paid off in Blades’ standout soccer career at Saint Ignatius High School and his selection into the school’s athletic hall of fame. Blades was on two state championship teams and one national champion. He was first-team all-Ohio, the Ohio Player of the Year and the Cleveland Player of the Year. He and his brother Gavin were part of the first soccer state championship at Saint Ignatius in 2004. The next season, Blades helped the Mike McLaughlin ’85-coached Wildcats go 23-0 and win another title.
“The state titles are what matter most to me,” Blades says. “Ignatius had always been good at soccer, but we had never won titles or things like that. So it was a different pressure, and it was great to get over the hump and very cool to win the first one and be part of that group.”
Blades still holds the school’s single season assist record with 21 in 2005, and the 23 wins for the 2005 team are tied for the most in a season in school history.
“I’m great friends with a lot of the guys on that team,” Blades says. “Ignatius has won a lot since, but I know that team gets talked about a lot. It’s great to hear kids talk about 2005 when it was 17 years ago.”
Blades and his wife, Liza, now live in Brecksville, and are the parents of four daughters ages 5 or younger. “We’re dealing with chaos,” he says with a laugh. A graduate of Northwestern University, Blades handles financial matters for a small tech startup. He started for four years at Northwestern, where he was a captain his final two years and All-America twice. He has coached with McLaughlin, whose individual approach Blades credits for his success, and tries to carry forward the Men-for-Others values he learned at Saint Ignatius. He calls being named to the school’s hall of fame “the highest honor I could get.”
Blades looks back at the first state title in his junior year and realizes that team looked on the championship as a combination of relief and jubilation. As the team pointed to the next season, they didn’t want to settle.
“We had an ambitious group,” Blades says. “So we talked among the seniors and we asked ourselves, ‘What do we do next?’ Internally we set a goal of going undefeated without really knowing if that would be possible.
“That seems to have set a standard.”
Blades will be inducted into the Saint Ignatius High School Athletic Hall of Fame during Wildcats Roar
on August 13, 2022.