Runner, 72, Paces Herself To Come Up With Gold Medals

Injury Almost Kept Her From U.s. Tournament

July 07, 1991|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff writer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Anna Romagna is quite the humble heroine.

Harford County's top performer at this past week's U.S. National Senior Sports Classic here,Romagna won two gold medals and a silver in track.

But she knows that luck had just a little bit to do with it.

Not that the 72-year-old Romagna isn't talented. She has won gold medals in the previous national senior games, 1987 and 1989.

But here in Syracuse, however, she was still recovering from an ankle sprain that happened the last weekend in April. She and her husband, Pasquale, better know as "Pas," weren't sure she could compete until a few days before the senior games began June 28.

"We came in not expecting to do much at all," said Pas, who coaches his wife. "First of all, we didn't know how her ankle would hold up running with speed like that. And second, she only had 16 days of workouts before she raced here."

In her first race, the 400 meters a week ago Friday, Anna led the entire way to take her first gold medal. Her winning time of 1 minute, 36.20 seconds was less than two seconds slower than her gold-medal time in the 1989 nationals.

The ankle was holding up perfectly. To make sure she didn't put too much pressure on it, Romagna was scratched from the 100.

Last Saturday, she lined up for her second race, the 1,500 meters. At the gun, Romagna broke quickly and took thelead, but on the first lap, her husband cautioned her about going out too quickly.

"She's got the speed at the end if she doesn't killherself in the first three laps," he said.

But on the third lap, Jane Dougherty of Philadelphia passed Romagna, who had to hold off a late challenge at the wire to get second.

"I was afraid if I didn't go out fast, they'd get too far out in front of me," said Anna, whowas pleased with her time of 7:50. "Pas was right when he was fussing with me. What he can't get through to me is you don't have to go all out in the beginning and fall apart coming down."

But the coach's advice did get through to his wife. In her final race, the 800 meters, Romagna tucked herself in behind the leader for three-quarters ofthe race. With about 200 meters to go, she made her move and then held off a late challenge to win the gold.

Not bad for someone who could hardly walk a month ago. "What really helped me was what I did when I couldn't run. I rode the stationary bike and worked out to keepmy upper-body strength," the athlete said.

Thirty years ago, Annacould not have imagined talking about training to run races. When she followed her husband into running in the early '60s, she couldn't even buy women's athletic shoes. She had to wear men's.

And she didn't intend to race. "For a long time I just ran. Then, one year, I ran in the Lady Equitable (10-kilometer race) and I found out I could win my age group," said Anna, who was close to 60 at the time.

Since then the Romagnas, who moved to Joppa 17 years ago, have become well-known in the Baltimore running community. They have been members ofthe Baltimore Road Runners Club and RASAC, a Harford running organization, since the clubs' beginnings. When they're not competing, the Romagnas volunteer to help administer road races and track meets.

Eleven years ago, when the Maryland Senior Olympics started, the Romagnas signed up to race. "They only had five age groups them," recalledAnna. "But I found out I was better in the shorter races than I was in the 5K's and 10K's."

From then on, the couple was hooked on Senior Olympics. They have competed in every one; Anna has won medals every year. Last year, she won all four races she entered.

This weekshe'll be back in training, getting ready for the Maryland games in October. Her husband also will be in training, but he competes on a bike now because knee surgery forced him off the track.

Said Anna, "I go out on my own now for runs, and Pas bikes. I miss him, but we go to the track and he times me. We're still in it together."

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