Marcus O'Sullivan could not have been more rested as he toed the starting line for the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in New York last Friday night. "I've been sleeping like a baby all week," he said later. "Getting 10 hours every night."
That was a bad sign. Behind his impish grin and quick wit, O'Sullivan, 28, is a serious man, a husband and father who completed Villanova's MBA program in December with a 3.6 grade point average. Insomnia has always been a good gauge of his intensity, and normally he never loses more sleep than he does in the days leading up to the Millrose, the premier meet of the American indoor season.
Why, then, the big sleep this year? O'Sullivan says he may have been emotionally fiat after finally proving himself to be an outstanding outdoor miler last year. The winner of world indoor titles at 1,500 meters in 1987 and '89, plus three of the last four Wanamaker Miles, O'Sullivan found it hard to get up for this year's Millrose—until two days before the meet, when he got a call from its director, Howard Schmertz, at his Havertown, Pa., home. "Marcus, I've got a surprise for you," Schmertz said. "Eamonn is in the mile."
For some, Schmertz's news might have been one of life's mixed surprises, along the lines of "Congratulations, it's triplets." But for O'Sullivan it was a welcome spur. "My blood started flowing faster," he says.
Eamonn, of course, is Eamonn Coghlan, O'Sullivan's countryman from Ireland and fellow Villanova alumnus, holder of the world indoor mark (3:49.78) for the mile and winner of a record seven Wanamaker Miles. Having been plagued by injuries for two years, Coghlan, now 37, effectively retired last summer. He began to run again last fall, initially for fun and fitness, but he soon began thinking of—and training for—competition. He won the 3,000 at a Grand Prix indoor meet in Hamilton, Ont., on Jan. 12. Eight days later he finished a poor third in an indoor mile in Portland, Ore., with a time of 4:02.78, but such has been Coghlan's mastery of the indoor mile that no one was absolutely sure that O'Sullivan could stave off Coghlan's comeback.
Over the last few years Coghlan's crown as king of the indoor mile has come to fit quite snugly on O'Sullivan's head. And no one knows Coghlan's mystique better than O'Sullivan. When O'Sullivan was growing up in Cork City, Coghlan was his idol. Though the two are close friends, O'Sullivan makes no secret of hoping to at least equal Coghlan's seven Wanamaker wins.
While Coghlan's level of fitness was the meet's great mystery, there was no doubting the physical condition of Joetta Clark, winner of the women's 800 meters. Clark, 27, who was double-teamed by East Germany's Sigrun Wodars and Christine Wachtel, the Olympic gold and silver medalists, respectively, led from start to finish, hitting the tape in 2:02.16, four yards ahead of Wachtel. Her dad, Joe Clark, the former Paterson, N.J., high school principal who gained national attention as a stern disciplinarian, was in the stands and must have admired her control.
Butch Reynolds, the world outdoor record holder at 400 meters, faced a problem in the 600-yard run. "I've never had anyone count laps to me before," he said of the 3�-lap race. "That kind of plays with your mind."
Indeed, after grabbing the lead at the start, Reynolds seemed to lose his concentration in midrace, allowing Danny Harris to build a four-yard cushion going into the final lap. However, for once the 6'3" Reynolds looked comfortable on the tight, banked curves of an indoor track. He gained on Harris with every long stride off the final turn. They dived at the tape in unison. Thirty minutes later, the photo revealed Reynolds to be the winner. 1:09.22 to 1:09.27.
In his showdown with Coghlan, O'Sullivan's strategy was simple: make the pace hard. "It's not good to have Eamonn around with a lap to go," said O'Sullivan. "Why set yourself up?"