Coach brings Olympic insight to team

Nate Stuart

Cross Country coach Mark Croghan talks about his days as an Olympian. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Kent State cross country coach Mark Croghan knows a lot about running.

He should, he’s a three-time Olympian who competed in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 games.

Other career highlights include being a four-time USA Outdoor champion and a two-time NCAA Champion.

At one point he was one of the top steeplechase runners in the world. The steeplechase is a race just under two miles where runners jump four 3-foot hurdles and then a large 12-foot by 12-foot pool of water every lap.

Croghan attended Ohio State, where he began running the steeplechase as a junior. He wanted to try something different, he said, so he started running the steeplechase and naturally excelled.

In 1993 he came in fifth at steeplechase the World Championships in Germany. He set a personal record time of 8:09.76, which was one second away from third place.

Through the following years Croghan was the top runner in the U.S. and one of the top five in the world.

Croghan’s successful career did not lack some trials.

In June of 2000 his second son, Griffin, had to undergo heart surgery for a congenital defect.

Griffin had to go on an ECMO machine, which pumped blood for his heart. One day he had a stroke while on the machine. Croghan said it was hard going day-to-day not knowing if his son would be all right. His son was eventually able to have surgery without needing a heart transplant.

In 1998 Croghan had anemia, which led him to take time off to work on his health. He took supplements with a lot of iron and vitamin C to recover. After a lot of aches and pains during this period, he said he started wondering if he lacked the drive and focus to continue running.

But he fought back and finished his career strong. He came in second at the Olympic Trials in 2000.

In 2002 he stopped running competitively and started looking at returning to coaching (he coached at Ohio State in the mid 1990s). He said things worked out great when he came to Kent State and he took over as coach of the cross country team last year.

Croghan said those tough experiences have helped him to be more patient in life and with his coaching. He said he learned to use setbacks as learning experiences.

Today he has a third son, Grayson, who is ten months old. He said his sons are doing well now.

Croghan enjoys coaching Kent State’s cross country team.

“I have a lot of fun,” Croghan said, “Every day is a new challenge. I plan things out but they don’t usually go as planned. I like spending time with the team. They are a lot of fun to be around.”

Friday, Croghan took his team to Delaware, Ohio, to compete in the All-Ohio Championships.

The mens team finished third overall out of 42 teams. Senior Seth Hutchinson led the Flashes with a time of 25:57.0, which was the seventh best in the tournament (out of 286 runners). Finishing close behind were senior Ben Wietmarschen (14th overall), sophomore Joe Parker (28th overall), senior Ryan Spellman (30th overall) and junior Ray Armstrong (31st overall).

The womens team finished eighth overall out of 38 teams. Senior Stephanie Blackstone placed thirteenth overall (out of 264 runners) with a time of 18:58.8 to lead the Flashes. Senior Tiffany Brenneman finished close behind, finishing 30th overall. Sophomore Sarah McCort finished 45th overall.

Contact sports corespondent Nate Stuart at [email protected].