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The Suburbanite
  • Green's Mark Croghan looks back on Olympic experience

  • Imagine having the chance to compete for a gold medal not once, but three times.

    Few athletes can lay claim to earning a spot on the US Olympic team, let alone be a part of three of them. Green High School graduate and current Kent State distance coach Mark Croghan is one of those elite individuals.

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  • Imagine earning the chance to compete in the Olympics.
    Imagine representing your country in one of the toughest, most physically demanding track events.
    Imagine having the chance to compete for a gold medal not once, but three times.
    Few athletes can lay claim to earning a spot on the US Olympic team, let alone be a part of three of them. Green High School graduate and current Kent State distance coach Mark Croghan is one of those elite individuals.
    “It was more of a dream than a goal,” said Croghan.
    An individual state champion in cross country and winning both the 1600 and 3200 meter in track his senior season, Croghan knew he was he good, but from reading Track and Field News he knew going to the Olympics would be difficult to accomplish.
    Achieving the dream would take a combination of things from Croghan. Besides putting in the hard work, there came learning to be patient, and learning about his event in general.
    “I had that mentality that more was better,” he said. “It took a new coach my junior year in college to learn to work hard and be smart.”
    Coach Lee BaDadie coached Croghan in the steeplechase from his junior year through his post collegiate and Olympic career. Spanning 15 years, BaDadie taught Croghan running a ton of miles and running hard isn’t the only thing needed to become great.
    Croghan also set intermediate goals en route to the Olympics. They included getting to and winning the NCAA championships and first qualifying for the Olympic trials themselves.
    His parents, Dan and Judy Croghan of Green, were there to support him along the way. From  his freshman year in high school when the Green cross country coach asked him to come out because he was too small for football, all the way to his second place finish at the Goodwill Games his senior year in college, the Croghans were there to support their son.
    “I had never even heard of cross country,” Judy Croghan said. “Then we went to his first meet at Goodyear Park, and he won.”
    She said Mark was there second son, and his older brother Dan Jr., was a great football player and honor student, so they were worried Mark might fall under his brother’s shadow.
    Mark left his own mark.
    By his senior year at The Ohio State University in 1991, he was ranked second in the country in the steeplechase, not just collegiately but in the nation as a whole. His father, Dan, said that was when he knew his son would qualify for the Olympics.
    “He never backed into anything,” Dan said. “I knew he would make it, barring injuries or something like that. I always thought he would achieve that.”
    Page 2 of 2 -  After college, Mark would compete nationally and internationally against some of the best steeplechasers in the world, with his parents traveling with him, supporting him wholeheartedly.
    In 1992, he placed second and qualified for the Barcelona Olympic Summer Games.
    Mark realizes now more than ever what it meant to compete in the Olympics.
    “It’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve probably gained more appreciation of it the farther out of shape and away from it I’ve been. That first one, in 1992. You try and soak in that experience. You don’t know there is going to be a second and third one. At that point I thought it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
    Mark placed seventh in the semi-finals at the Olympics in 1992, then came back again in 1996 in the Atlanta games after winning the Olympics trials. In front of big group of his family, he stepped up and placed fifth, two places shy of a bronze medal.
    “In 1996 we were doubly fortunate in Atlanta,” Dan said. “We had a pile of people that were able to go and watch him compete and get fifth. You don’t often get to compete in a venue as big as that.”
    In 2000 at the Sydney games Mark placed fifth in his heat, which would be his final go at the Olympics. He continued to compete until 2002 when injuries became an issue.
    Mark now spends his time coaching instead of running. In shape or not, he has a wealth of knowledge to pass on to his athletes.
    “I know a lot of philosophies,” Mark said of his coaching career, “I know a lot of things I’ve learned from my coach that I try to pass on. Especially the negative things - to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes that I do. (They are) influenced by what I was able to do as an athlete.”
    Mark follows his alumni Bulldogs, who have had plenty of success in cross country the last few seasons. He said they would have probably made it out of any other Region last year as a team, but thinks they should do well again this season.
    Looking back, Mark’s results at the Olympic are not what he remembers most.
    “Just the friendships that you strike up,” Mark said. “Not just the Olympic Games. The guys I was on the teams with I consider life long friends, even if we don’t talk, it was the memories that we made.”