Matt Centrowitz wins Nissan Fifth Avenue Mile,
photo by PhotoRun.net
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
NEW YORK - "Our wild idea is to inspire the next generation."
This was New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg, at the mike, at the awards ceremonies following Saturday's ultra-successful 32nd running of the Fifth Avenue Mile.
These numbers told a big part of the story: (1) 3:52.4, (2) 4:24.2, (3) 5,469.
In a duel of London Olympic fourth-placers, it took Matthew Centrowitz 3:52.4 to win the men's title over Bernard Lagat's 3:52.9. Reigning Olympic silver medalist Leonel Manzano ran 3;53.1 in third, and 11 more broke four minutes.
Brenda Martinez wins Nissan Fifth Avenue Mile,
photo by PhotoRun.net
Brenda Martinez, whose own Olympic aspirations were derailed by pre-Trials injuries, led the women's Fifth Avenue field in 4:24.2 over Anna Pierce's 4:24.9 and 11 other pursuers.
But they were just the tip of this Big Apple Iceberg,
The 16-race program, run south on Fifth Avenue from 81st Street to 61st Street, attracted a giant-sized pack of 5,469 runners; 2,655 men and 2,814 women.
From the 8:45 a.m. start to the 1:15 p.m. conclusion, "The Avenue, Fifth Avenue," was a blur of enthusiastic humanity, hoofing it from the Museum area of the lower 80s to the south end of Central Park's east side in the 60s.
Good as Centrowitz - cheered on by "Centro Nation" family and friends - and Martinez and all the rest were, it was the kids who put the brightest smile on Wittenberg's face.
In a brilliant change of Fifth Avenue format, the men's elite mile was not the
finale of the day's program at all.
Instead, the whole card concluded with the mile for kids aged 8-14.
So now, after the crowds lining The Avenue had cheered the top guns, a bunch of them fresh from the London Games, those elites returned the favor by cheering on the kids.
All those high-fives and low-fives added up to a truly heartwarming display.
The Olympians seemed to get more of a kick out of it than the kids in this mile of smiles.
Inspiration was the prevailing emotion and no one displayed more of it than
13-year-old Jesus Jimenez and 14-year-old Erica Yamazaki.
He led the boys' division of the kids race in 5:04, she paced the girls' kids event in 5:36, all part of the NYRR's "Mighty Milers" program.
"We are just so privileged to work with Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg's team and open these streets for you," said Wittenberg.
"I want to thank our brilliant (New York Road Runners) team because this whole idea of putting the kids with the pros is exactly what it's all about to us.
"We're really excited about the kids watching the best in the world today, then what better thing could it be for them to get to the finish line (of their own mile) and have world champions and Olympic medalists, and the best in the world bring them in.
"I've got to tell you, this is a like a number one highlight year for us, the New York Road Runners. Great job, everyone.
"Great job kids, keep it going, have fun.
"We are really honored. Congratulations everybody."
At 22, Matthew Centrowitz keeps showing the stuff that could easily make him the next Mel Sheppard, Glenn Cunningham, Jim Ryun, Bernard Lagat and al the rest? Young "Centro" has the potential to be the best of them all. His 2011 season was brilliant-topped by his bronze-medal finish in the 1,500 meter final at the Daegu World Championships.
His 2012 campaign has been even a spctacular ride, too.
Centrowitz's 3:53.92 Wanamaker Mile triumph was an indoor season feature, but he ran into a knee injury that drastically slowed his Olympic Trials preparations.
Here's one fella, though, they couldn't hold back. He rehabbed just on time to make the London-bound team and wound up fourth over there in a tactical 1500 race that could have easily had a far different result.
Following the wrap-up of the European campaign, he returned home to
win it all on Fifth Avenue and earn a well-earned rest.
He's heading back to Eugene, heading to a degree in sociology, and by 2013 - a year to be highlighted by the World Championships in Moscow - likely heading to even greater glories.
"With the caliber of the field we had today, we all knew it was going to go down to the wire, for sure and that's exactly what happened," he said.
"This was my first time in this race, so I was just keying off Bernard (Lagat) and all the veterans who'd been here before.
"I just tucked in behind him (Lagat) and covered any move he'd make. With 100 to go, I just went for it."
Sure enough, he got it.
What's more, Fifth Avenue wasn't just about the elites and the kids.
Just ask kids-at-heart Ronville Gravesande, Joel Haynes, Vic Heckler, Ino Cantu, Bert Robbins, Sab Koide and Bill Benson. Or Jeanne Daprano, Marjorie Kagan and Pearl Jones.
Gravesande won the 60-64 division of the men's George Sheehan Masters Mile, running 5:13.
Haynes took 65-69 honors in 5:25. Heckler led the 70-74 parade in 6:03. Tops in 75-79 was Cantu in 6:26.
Pacing the 80-84s - by nearly 2 ½ minutes - was Robbins in 7:41.
At 88, Koide led the 85-89 bracket in 11:55. And the only nonagenarian running The Avenue, 93-year-old Benson, got to 61st Street in 14:19.
Daprano was the women's 75-79 winner in 7:09; Kagan the 80-84 titlist in 10:53,
86-year-old Jones the 85-89 champion in 16:14.
No one to be relegated to the sidelines, Wittenberg - once an Olympic Trials
marthoner - ran seventh in the women's 50-54 section in 5:59.
"This is definitely huge for me," said Centrowitz.
And so - probably - said 5,468 other Fifth Avenue milers, of all ages and talent-levels.