In pursuit of athletic greatness | NevadaAppeal.com

In pursuit of athletic greatness

Rhonda Costa-Landers

Seventeen-year-old Denny Hadler Jr. has great ambitions. From football to skiing to auto racing, not much is slowing him down these days.

Entering his senior year at Galena High School, Hadler is returning to a sport he once played as a young boy — football. He is looking to share the positions of running back and cornerback on the varsity team.

“I like the spot of running back,” said Hadler. “There’s just something about running away from a big linebacker. It’s a challenge, and a thrill,” he added with a smile.

It’s a challenge because Hadler is only 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. Football is a sport he enjoys and misses. He began playing at the age of 6 in the Mighty Mite league but gave it up at 11 because another sport was calling his name — skiing.

Hadler said he first put on a pair of skis at the age of 2. He was on his own (on skis) at the age of 4. Now nearly grown up, the young man with big brown eyes and a friendly smile, is taking on his ambitions.

“I was competing in the Far West Junior 5 level at the age of 7. And in my first-ever race, won the Coca-Cola Cup.

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“I’ve been competing each year since then until my first big match at the age of 14. That’s when I had my breakthrough. I finished in the top-10 of the Junior-3 Olympic Giant Slalom. That’s my best event, the giant slalom. I also downhill ski, but I’m not quite as good in that.”

Two years ago Hadler added another sport — automobile racing. Hadler’s cousin, John Burritt, gave him the opportunity to take his Legends car for a test run. He gives thanks to cousin John and Uncle John Burritt Sr. for the ride.

These days, Hadler Jr. and his dad, Denny Hadler Sr., work as a team developing Denny Jr.’s driving skills and knowledge of the race car.

“After I got my car, I got a lot of help from Mike Morrissey Jr., D.J. Krentz and special thanks to Jim Klopp,” said Denny Jr.

“Jim’s helping me to learn my mental mistakes and how to correct them. I won the Young Lions division for Northern Nevada in 2001.”

Hadler recorded his first-ever main event win Aug. 3 at Champion Speedway.

While participating in three sports, which take up time on a year-round basis, Hadler has found a way to keep his academics in good standing also. He enters the 12th grade with a 3.4 grade point average.

“This year, my focus is on academics, for skiing. I want to get a scholarship to UNR for their collegiate ski team. They have a good team. And, I’m low enough in the national points to get the scholarship. At the same time, I want to pursue my racing career.”

Hadler knows the has the opportunity in front of him to succeed. He first wants to advance to the late model racing division. His long-term goal is to race in the Winston Cup Southwest Tour.

“Next year, I want to go for the semi-pro championship in the Legends class. I’m currently second in points — a full race behind Jim.”

No matter what Hadler chooses, he said his family stands behind him 120 percent — dad; his mom, Cathy, and sisters Tammi and Angie, as well as his girlfriend, Whitney Garol.

“In my free time, I hang out with my friends Nick Parmelee and Whitney Jo Haller. We go to each other’s houses and watch movies, hang out and stay out of trouble.”

Hadler also has a career in mind. He would like to get into sports medicine, specifically physical therapy.

“Everybody in the family is behind me. They’re going to support me no matter what choice I make.”