Seconds Make Difference For Coogan, Plasencia
Feb. 17, 1996
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Mark Coogan realized his dream with 75 seconds to spare Saturday. Steve Plasencia fell 58 seconds short of his.
Coogan came in second behind Bob Kempainen in the U.S. men's Olympic marathon trials, but because the top three finishers make the team, Coogan is bound for Atlanta.
Had Coogan finished 76 seconds slower, Plasencia would have made it into the top three and Coogan would have been on the outside looking in.
It's a position with which Coogan is familiar. One week earlier, his wife, Gwyn, finished fourth in the women's marathon trials at Columbia, S.C., relegating her to the role of first alternate.
``She just came home and was positive,'' Coogan said. ``She did her best. You just move on.''
Gwyn Coogan was watching along the route Saturday as her 29-year-old husband, the second-place finisher in last year's Pan Am Games marathon, qualified for his first Olympics.
``When I saw him at 20 miles, I felt pretty sure he would make the team,'' she said.
Her husband had a completely different perspective as he approached the final miles.
``Truthfully, I was just trying to finish,'' he said. ``I was holding on for dear life, just trying to survive. Bob would just keep making bursts, and I would just try and focus on his heels, stay with him.''
Coogan, who wound up 20 seconds behind the winner, found plenty of solace in his second-place check for $40,000.
``The dream was just to make the team,'' he said. ``But this means I don't have to run any more races this year.''
Neither Coogan said they viewed Saturday's race as a chance to make up for her fourth-place finish.
``There was nothing I could have done differently,'' Gwyn said. ``I ran hard and did what I could, so I have to be pleased. But I am not going to sit around and eat bonbons. I have the ability, and I still can make the 10K team in June.''
Plasencia, 39, also was considering his alternatives after failing to qualify for his third Olympic team. He represented the United States in the 10,000 meters in 1988 and '92.
Plasencia stayed with the lead pack until Kempainen, Coogan and eventual third-place finisher Keith Brantly broke away around the 20-mile mark.
Plasencia was able to establish himself as the best of the rest, but he had nothing left to challenge the leaders over the final few miles. He wound up 58 seconds behind Brantly.
Plasencia said he probably should have put less emphasis on running with the lead pack in the early stages of the race.
``If I had it to do over,'' he said, ``I would probably cool my jets a little bit.''
Now the 10,000-meter trials look like his best bet.
``We'll see,'' he said with a shrug of the shoulders.