I have been watching Matt Centrowitz, Jr race now for a couple of years. Those in the know, like our John Nepolitan, the creator of our Athletes Of the Week program (www.atf-athlete.com), have seen this young man develop for the past four years into one of the best young distance runners in America.
Like father, like son. Matt Centrowitz, Sr was one of our top distance runners in the 70s and 80s, while a runner at the University of Oregon. Matt, Sr. was a top prep runner and he was an Olympian at 1,500 meters in 1976 and won the 5,000 meters at the 1980 Olympic Trials. In 1981, Matt Centrowitz, Sr., set the then American Record for 5,000 meters. Matt, Sr. has become one of country's top distance running coaches.
At the Reebok Grand Prix, when Matt Jr ran in the Reebok men's mile, he ran a fine 4:04.1, just short of his family prep record, set by his father with his 4:02.7 prep mile. Just before the race, I had a chance to say hello to Matt Sr, and he was just like any other dad, a little nervous, just wanting his kid to run well. When we asked how did he feel before his son raced, Matt deadpanned, "Nervous." An honest comment from a father if there ever was one.
Matt Jr ran a great race that day, but that was just a preview of what was to come. On June 15, 2007, at the Nike Outdoor Championships, Matt Centrowitz, Jr. ran seven laps behind Craig Forys, the young man from Howell, New Jersey who had won the 2007 Nike Indoor Champs 2 mile. Craig had set a very tough pace, but, with one lap to go a very tough group of runners still in fighting distance.
In truth, Craig Forys had to worry only about one person, Matt Centrowitz, Jr. Running a sizzling 58.2 last 400 meters, Matt ran 8:41.55, moving the late Steve Prefontaine to fourth all time on the prep list. Next was Craig Forys in 8:44.53, then Elliot Heath of Winona, Minnesota in 8:46.12, then Evan Jager of Algonquin, Illinois in 8:47.59, and Hassan Mead, of Minneapolis, Minnesota in 8:51.23. With tenth place at 8:56, this was one of the deepest prep two miles ever!
It is fitting that the race was run at the Nike Outdoor Champs, an event run by the NSSF, a group founded by Jim Spier and Mike Byrnes and friends to promote their favorite part of the sport, prep track and field. They now have the Nike Indoor, Nike Outdoor, the Great American Cross Country Festival and the Nike Team Nationals. It is also fitting that Matt Centrowitz, Jr. who has followed in his father and his sister (Lauren goes to Stanford) footsteps in distance running, will head to the University of Oregon, a place that his father spent some time at a couple of decades back. But this story is Matt Centrowitz, Jr. who has taken his own journey to becoming one of the best prep distance runners ever.
Nike Outdoor, June 16, 2007
Boys 2 Mile Finals
1. Matthew Centrowitz (Arnold, MD) 8:41.55
2. Craig Forys (Howell, NJ) 8:44.53
3. Elliott Heath (Winona, MN) 8:46.12
4. Evan Jager (Algonquin, IL) 8:47.59
5. Hassan Mead (Minneapolis, MN) 8:51.23
6. Paul Springer (Kennett Square, PA) 8:52.77
7. Sean Kevere (Brentwood, TN) 8:55.16
8. Dan Jackson (Ann Arbor, MI) 8:55.60
9. Girma Mecheso (Lawrenceville, GA) 8:56.58
10. Mark Amirault (Walpole, MA) 8:56.84
For more results on the Nike Outdoors, please check http://nikeoutdoor.nationalscholastic.org.