In June 2011, Matt Centrowitz, a senior at the University of Oregon, won the 1,500 meters at the NCAA quite convincingly, with a kick that showed, no matter how close his competition, that there was one winner that day. This was just weeks after winning his third Pac-10 title on May 14.
For many collegiates, the excellent adventure would have been over, but not for Matthew Centrowtiz.
On June 25, Matthew Centrowtiz (pictured above) won the 2011 USA Outdoor title at 1,500 meters with a field that would have made others wet themselves. Centrowtiz that day possessed the quiet confidence and grace under pressure that makes him a medal contender in global championships....
On September 3, 2011, Matt Centrowitz found himself in the final of the World Championships in Daegu, Korea. Well, correct that, he did not find himself there-he made the damn final. Centrowitz earned that final. But he was not done.
In watching Fermin Cacho, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in Barcelona, I wrote in my notes that the famed Spaniard had eyes in the back of his head. That is one of the highest compliments that can give a miler, who has to be both street fighter, tactician and supremely confident.
I will go one step further with Matthew Centrowitz: Centrowitz remembers that a race is not over until AFTER the finish line.
In Daegu, Matt Centrowitz stormed to third in the last ten meters of the race, where people are trying to not fall apart, Centrowitz had the presence of mind to race through the tape, nabbing the bronze medal.
I remember speaking to Vinn Lannana, AD at Oregon, who gave kudos to Andy Powell for his work with Matt Centrowitz.
In London 2012, Centrowitz moved to the next level and just missed a medal, taking fourth.
The World Championships in Moscow were another battleground. Centrowitz knew that Asbel Kiprop, 2011 World Champ, would be the man to watch. Championship 1,500 meters are a series of races. The first 400 to 800 meters is how the finalists position themselves and check each other out, with few wanting to lead. Then, from 800 meters on, it is anyone's guess. Asbel Kiprop, he of the amazingly long legs and even more astounding stride, took off in the third lap as the last 800 meters took one minute and forty-seven seconds to cover. Kiprop took off, and Centrowitz stayed there.
I remember watching in Moscow, and hoping Matthew could medal as he stayed out of trouble, and moved closer and closer. While the last lap looked smooth from the stands, it was horrendous, with several pace changes and several near collisions. But Centrowitz had battled the field and moved up one position from Daegu-to silver!
His 2014 season was stops and starts. A very long and difficult sickness in February was rumored to be much more sinister, due to social media's ability to eat the same people it idolizes.
Centrowitz, once healthy in 2014, set some fun prs in 2014. His 800 meters was reduced to 1:46.12, his mile to 3:50.53, his 5,000 meters to 13:20.06. He left the best for the Monaco GP, where Centrowitz ran 3:31.09, his best at the 1,500 meters by a full second!
"Before this season, Alberto and I sat down to talk about 2015. My 5k PR is not far off from what the others can run. My PR in the 800 meters obviously needs a lot of work. Running the 10000 meters is about footspeed. The indoor season is about running a lot of fast times and making sure all is ready for the outdoor season." is how Matt Centrowitz sums it all up.
Opening with a fine 2:49 for the 1,200 meters, Centrowitz opened Team USA's bid for the Distance Medley WR in fine fashion, last weekend at the Armory Track Invitational. The 9:19.93 (Matthew Centrowtiz, Mike Berry, Eric Sowkinski, Pat Casey) time broke the WR by six seconds.
When queried about the 1200 meter leg, Centrowitz responded, " I should have run a little faster."
A writer asked Matthew Centrowitz about his fine form and little wasted motion. Matthew Centrowitz responded in Centrowitz style : " I have been given a gift of comfortable relaxed form!"
Centrowitz ran 4:10.85 in 2007, taking second in the junior National Mile. In 2012, he was seventh in the 3000 meters in 7:46.19.
A high school career of successful racing (his 8:41.55 win in National Indoors, where he negative splitted, is considered one of prep track history's great races. His father, Matt Centrowitz, coach at American University, was a two time Olympian, who raced fearlessly (setting AR of 13:12.91, probably his greatest race ever). Matthew Jr's sister, Lauren, competed at Stanford and ran in the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Matthew Centrowitz has been coached by Alberto Salazar since he went pro in 2012. I remember heading back from Hengelo in May 2012, and Dathan Ritzenhein, then with Nike Oregon Project, telling me how impressed he was with Matthew Centrowtiz. "The guy has talent."
Going back to early 2013, when Matthew Centrowitz won the mile at the Reggie Lewis center, his 3:56.26 did not impress-it was, as always, his racing style. With fine form and well honed elbows, gifts of many years of racing the boards, Matthew Centrowitz does not ask for respect in the world of elite middle distance running, he earns it.
We look forward to his race on the new Reggie Lewis Mondo 200 meter oval tomorrow night, Saturday, February 7, 2015.