Coach Mike Cox of Concord University Qualifies for Olympic Trials

 Coach Mike Cox of Concord University

Editor's comment:

Here are the splits for Coach Cox:

5K: 16:33, 10K: 32:57, 15K 49:32, 20K: 1:06.09, Half: 1:09.48,25K: 1:22.42, 30K 1:39.20, 35K 1:56.35, 40K: 2:14.08, Finish: 2:21.42

Coach, You made all of us proud. - Daddy Doug

The following article was written by Tom Bone and retrieved from the Register-Herald in Beckley, WV.

A local athlete’s long-running dream of making the Olympics took a giant stride forward on Sunday when Mike Cox took eighth place overall — and finished with the best time of any American runner — in a sweltering-hot Chicago Marathon.

Speaking by phone from Chicago Sunday afternoon, Cox, a Princeton resident, said, “It was a brutal day, but I didn’t let anything (besides finishing) be an option. I stuck to my plan and got it done (though) my mind was saying ‘Quit.’”

Cox, the coach of the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams at Concord University, said it was his fourth marathon he’s ever run competitively.

“I’m still learning,” he said. “It’s never easy. ... I knew I had to run smart to get where I needed to be. And the weather was going to make it tougher. But I didn’t worry about it.”

He said that when runners face difficulties in a long distance race, “You just try to survive. (You) keep pushing. When you have stretches where you feel good, you try to take advantage of those.

“When you get into a tough stretch, you need to be positive.”

He said, “If you’d told me yesterday that I’d finish in eighth place overall, I probably would have laughed at you.”

His unofficial time was 2 hours, 21 minutes, 4 seconds. With his finish, he qualified to try out for the United States Olympic team. That race will take place in New York City on Nov. 3, Cox said.

“That’s in 27 days,” Cox said. “I wish I could have done it (attained qualifying status) sooner. But I’ll recover, hopefully, and we’ll see what happens.”

He said he set his sights on running marathons because “I think it’s a true test of guts, determination and will.”

Cox graduated from now-consolidated Athens High School in 1993, where he posted the state record in the mile run for Class AA. He went on to Virginia Tech, where he was a three-time conference champ in track and set a school record in the 2,000-meter run.

The overall winner in Chicago was Patrick Ivuti of Kenya, competing in only his second major marathon, according to The Associated Press. He finished in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 11 seconds in the closest finish in the race’s history, the AP reported.

The race was curtailed due to 88-degree heat and humidity, the AP said.

Cox said the progress of the runners was available in real time through a computer site, and he found out after the fact that people in Four Seasons Country were following his attempt.

“I had about 15 messages on my phone when I looked at it after I finished,” he said.

One person who was elated and concerned at the same time was his grandmother, Patsy Constantino of Princeton. “He did it this time,” she said. “He’s really something else.”

She said, “It takes so much out of a young man. I hate to see him all out of breath like that. (But) he’ll be all right as soon as he gets some of my meatballs.”

She said she sent a dish home with her daughter Sunday afternoon in anticipation of Cox’s return today.

Cox said he will need to get his cross country teams ready for next Saturday’s Concord Invitational meet at Pipestem. “That’s the next focus,” he said.

He then allowed himself to look ahead at the conference and then the regional meet.

“The regional meet will be the same date as the (Olympic) trial,” he said. “I won’t be with the team for it, but it’s for a good cause, I think.”

— E-mail: tbone@bdtonline.com

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