Closing the gap ... fast

Johnson City Press • Dec 3, 2019 at 8:19 AM

Johnson City came within a hair of witnessing a new milestone on Thanksgiving Day when Abbey Cooper entered the final stretch ahead of the pack in the Turkey Trot 5K.

Cooper, a professional runner and 2016 Olympian, nearly was the first woman to cross the finish line ahead of all men in the event’s 14-year history. Long-legged Ben Brown kicked into high gear and passed her to take the tape.

And it was by just two clicks of the clock. The finish was so close that race officials did not have time to re-raise the tape for Cooper as the first female finisher.

Even though she set out to finish first overall, Cooper seemed satisfied with what she accomplished. She told Staff Writer Jonathan Roberts she just had “some work to do on that finishing kick.”

Young athletes, male and female alike, should take note of her attitude as well as her resolve.

Track fans should remember her last Olympic run in Rio de Janeiro, when she collided with other runners during the 5,000-meter qualifier. She wound up finishing the heat and advancing to the finals, but her Olympics were over, having suffered a torn ACL and meniscus from her fall.

Now she’s back at it. Cooper is amid training over the mountains in Boone, North Carolina, for the upcoming track season in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

And she’s already making plans to be back in Johnson City on Thanksgiving Day the following November for another shot at making local history. We’re betting she will have those two seconds in mind.

If not Cooper, a woman one day will cross our Turkey Trot finish line ahead of all men. Advances in conditioning and sheer will are closing the gender gap.

Wouldn’t it be appropriate if it happened in November 2020, 100 years after the first women had the right to cast votes in a presidential election?