Mark Conover turned inexperience into an advantage in the U.S. Olympic men's marathon trials.

Conover, running in only his second marathon, ran like a wizened veteran Sunday, making the right move at the right time to claim a victory in 2:12:26."The marathon is an event where lack of experience can be more beneficial," said Conover, whose only previous marathon was a 2:18:03 third place at the California International last December.

"The more marathons you run, the more your body starts to rebel on itself," said Conover, 27, a former NCAA Division II cross country and 10,000-meter champ from Humboldt (Calif.) State and San Luis Obispo.

Conover and Ed Eyestone broke from the pack between the 18th and 19th mile marks of a highly tactical race in which almost a dozen runners had challenged for the lead and been unable to break away. He ran virtually shoulder-to-shoulder with Eyestone for 5 miles, putting the rest of the field far behind. Then Conover left Eyestone behind in the 25th mile and breezed home to pick up his ticket to the Olympics.

"I told my roomate (before the race) I was going to pull away from Eyestone in the last mile and that's what happened," said Conover.

Pete Pfitzinger, of Gloucester, Mass., the 1984 Olympic trials winner, claimed the third and final spot on the 1988 team in 2:13.09.

The times were not bad considering Sunday's gusty winds and the steep uphill climbs of the course. Only 78 of 116 starters finished the race.