Matthew Centrowitz of Broadneck High School is coming off of a big 2nd place performance at the Boston Indoor Games where he ran the mile in 4:10.85. He is a three-time cross country state champion who fairly recently placed 5th at the Footlocker Cross Country National Championships. He is committed to run for the University of Oregon in the Fall, where he will follow in his father's footsteps. Matt Centrowitz Sr. ran for the Oregon Ducks and went on to become an Olympian and an American record holder. Matthew Jr's older sister also holds an American record in the 4x1500m relay. By running 4:10 last weekend, he is only getting warmed up for what should be a remarkable senior track season and distance running career.
MoCoRunning: Matthew, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Let me begin by saying you have a lot of fans in Montgomery County. I also think over the past few years the coaches and athletes have enjoyed watching you run and the way you have represented the state at competitions has inspired a lot of the younger kids.
Let me begin by asking you why you are going to Oregon. You could have pretty much chosen where you wanted to go but in the end you chose the Ducks. Why?
Centrowitz: I chose Oregon off a couple factors that I felt were important to me. One was Coach Lananna. I got a chance to meet and talk with him in person three times last year, giving me more than enough confidence in him and the program to help me accomplish my future goals. Another factor for me was the team. They are a young team that is very focused on their goals and enjoys what they are doing. They are going to be my teammates for the next four to five years, so I knew I had to get along with the team as well. A third factor was the school's environment. I loved the location, the people around the campus, and the academic side of things. They had a major that interests me and that I can see myself pursuing in the future. Plus who wouldn't want their mascot to be a duck?
MoCoRunning: What are you planning on studying in college?
Centrowitz: I'm not too sure. But I'd like to look into Sports Marketing, somewhere along those lines.
MoCoRunning: You referred to your future goals when discussing Oregon. Obviously every single runner wants to improve their times, but is there a specific event you want to focus on and what kind of long term goal do you have in mind?
Centrowitz: I'd like to think of myself more as a 5000 meter guy, but really the decision will be up to Coach Lananna. I'd like to run some miles/3k's indoors and miles and 5k's outdoors. A long term goal would obviously be making an Olympic team and being apart of an NCAA Championship team.
MoCoRunning: The Ducks have collected the most prestigious high school talent for the past three years and the team has really resurrected itself into a top program that once again expects to win championships. Where do you see yourself next year and four years from now? Have the coaches talked about red shirting at all?
Centrowitz: Basically if I'm fit to be on their varsity team then I will compete for Oregon. If not, then I'll red shirt. In the next year, I'd really like to see myself in good enough shape to be competing for Oregon during the cross country season. In the next four years or so, I'd certainly like to be heading into the Trials with Olympic aspirations.
MoCoRunning: Last year at the Penn Relays you won the 3000m race. Everyone in Maryland knew what you were capable of, but not many outside of the area gave you a shot. Were you surprised with the outcome?
Centrowitz: Yeah, I was shocked that I had beaten such a good field, but after I had looked back on my training leading up to the race, you can really tell I was gunning for that race weeks in advance. I was definitely prepared and ready for a solid performance.
MoCoRunning: Do you think that race put you on the map?
Centrowitz: I would say so. It got me into the fast heat of the 2 mile at NON [Nike Outdoor Nationals].
MoCoRunning: Correct me if I am wrong, but on the same day your sister broke an American record in the 4x1500 with her Stanford teammates. How cool is it that at the most famous track meet in the world your last name was being announced on the loud speaker all day?
Centrowitz: It was a great feeling for me and the whole family for us to perform at our best at such a prestigious meet with all our family and friends there to watch.
MoCoRunning: Let me jump ahead to this year. You focused a lot of attention on the last three meets of the XC season States, the Footlocker Regional and the Finals. Let me begin by asking you if you felt pressure to break the course record at Hereford?
Centrowitz: Not really. I hadn't really thought too much of it beforehand, but afterwards I was disappointed I didn't break 16. Although, I was more pleased with winning it three times in a row than anything else. Yes, the main focus throughout the whole summer and cross country season was geared towards Footlocker, where it all counted the most.
MoCoRunning: Having won at Hereford many times, do you feel the course is a fair way to end the season?
Centrowitz: I personally like the course and would think yes it is a fair way to end the season. Although, it may not be a PR to others, at least you can see the progression you made from Bull Run to States. Lots of people also complain about how it makes Maryland look bad with the slow times. But that's why they have Footlocker Regionals to show where you really stand up against other runners in the Northeast. Maryland placed 5th as a state and showed that although our state meet times were slow, we are still capable of competing with other states.
MoCoRunning: Tell us about the Footlocker Regional. What did you think of your chances advancing to the finals going into the race and did you feel that to vindicate your cross country career you had to make it?
Centrowitz: Not only did I want to qualify to Nationals, but also do well in San Deigo. At Van Cortlandt [Regionals], I wanted to relax and feel comfortable most of the race and then try to open it up when I got on the flats (800m to go).
MoCoRunning: At the finals you had an awesome showing and you were racing against 39 of the best runners in the country. What was that experience like? Did you hang out with a lot of the runners and share war stories or was it strictly business?
Centrowitz: Haha, definitely not strictly business. We had three guys (Cybulski, Murdock, and BRD) give us a nice Hawaiian dance before the race that ended up being really sexy. I got to room with Colby Lowe, a runner from the South. So it was an opportunity to meet other runners from different regions. It really was a great experience to have elite runners as your regional captain. They shared with us some of their high school training and experiences. It was interesting to hear what these guys do before their big races versus what I might do.
MoCoRunning: You are not racing for Broadneck this indoor season. Besides the race in Boston, what kind of plans do you have? Do you have any thoughts of running at the US XC Championships in Boulder?
Centrowitz: I will not be racing for Broadneck for the indoor season, but more than likely will return for the outdoor season. So far on my schedule is Boston; a race up in the armory (2/3); NIN [Nike Indoor Nationals]. After Footlocker Nationals, I was finished with high school cross country. I'm just getting ready for track now.
MoCoRunning: What is your training routine like?
Centrowitz: Lately for track, I try and get on the track three times a week. Sundays I like to keep as a long run. Then the days in between are easy recovery runs. Cross country was different. That's just for track so far.
MoCoRunning: Your race up in Boston was sweet. 4:10 indoors is pretty sick. Leading up to the race had your training proved to you that you could go 4:10?
Centrowitz: Training was going exceptionally well over Christmas break and early January. Then about a week and half before Boston my hip flexor/pointer was pretty sore causing me to back off on any speed work I had planned leading up to the race. I did one tune up workout on Wednesday and thought I was feeling good enough to make the trip. But all week I just kept thinking about the training I had been doing earlier and that everything would come together.
MoCoRunning: You ran a pretty smart race just letting Taye, Murdock, Macheso and Forys take it out strong. Did you plan on having those guys do the work and just take over with 4 laps to go like you did?
Centrowitz: Actually I personally felt tactically I ran a poor race, moving from 10th to 1st over 300 meters. I originally wanted to be in the top 4 or so for the majority of the race and throw it all down toward the end. I just found it hard to get moving early, but felt great at 800 and then started to pick it up. I may have made my move a little early looking back, but that's why you race; to learn. Duncan is great competitor and definitely showed to be the faster guy at Boston.
MoCoRunning: What else did you learn from that race about yourself and about your conditioning?
Centrowitz: One important thing that I learned was not to 'lose my head'. As I was moving up, I felt the crowd get louder and I just stopped thinking and found myself in the lead with about 350 to go. Although, this race gave me lots of confidence in my training, for I know I have lots of room for improvement in my training.
MoCoRunning: Do you follow the professional and college scene and if so who are some runners you think are going to make some noise in the next couple of years as the Olympics approach?
Centrowitz: That's funny that you brought that up. The morning of my race I went to jog around a park near my hotel and ran by Craig Mottram, who was doing his thing in the park as well. I probably ran by him 5-6 times during the period of my short jog. I am such a big fan and amazed at what he has accomplished. Especially after watching him run the 3k this weekend as he was waving to the crowd over the last 200, was so awesome. Maybe I'm biased, but I'm a big fan of my future teammates at Oregon as well and I can definitely see them all doing well over the next 4 years or so.
MoCoRunning: What are your running goals before you leave high school?
Centrowitz: I'd like to give the State 3200 meter record a shot. [9:07.0, 1973]
MoCoRunning: Do you prefer cross or track? Why?
Centrowitz: Whatever season I'm in I usually prefer. But if I had to choose, it would be track. In track I can get into more of a rhythm and I like to know splits and such.
MoCoRunning: Besides running, what other kinds of interests do you have?
Centrowitz: Um, I like to do everything I guess. Super Smash Brothers on Gamecube is my life and I get nice at that. I got a girlfriend that keeps me busy and I guess you can say that's an interest too. I also have an ice cream eating contest coming up that I have been preparing for.
MoCoRunning: Who are you going up against and what is your flavor?
Centrowitz: I am going up against my girlfriend's little sister who has been talking lots of smack lately. So basically I'm just going to train through this contest and peak later on in the year against bigger/better competition. We're using Maggie Moo's ice cream, so chocolate and strawberry ice cream mixed with chocolate sprinkles is my usual.
MoCoRunning: Have you ever done one before and what is your record
Centrowitz: In these contests we usually go by quantity, more than speed. But I've taken pints of ice cream down no sweat. But I have never been pushed to a great performance.
MoCoRunning: You are at the dinner table with your dad and your sister. Who is the top Centrowitz?
Centrowitz: Dad!!! No questions asked. Although my older sister will get smart sometimes, since she's in college now, but my Dad never says anything to her. He always gives me a hard time with anything in my life (running, girls, school) and is not afraid to crack me one if I need it...which is like everyday.
MoCoRunning: Lastly I have to ask this. You wore the Pwn3rs TC jersey at Footlocker Northeast Regionals. Did anyone ask about it and do you think you will ever race with it again. I think it's good luck for you.
Centrowitz: Haha, Will Palmer really just handed it to me at States and told me to wear it at Footlocker, and I really didn't know it was a real TC and how intense Moco runners are about it. But whenever I'm allowed to wear it [NIN and NON], I'll slip her on. Although, I think I may need a size up? And do we get shorts to come with it too? Half tights would be so BA over short shorts though! And yeah I did get a lot of laughs and stares by wearing that jersey, but I mean a lot of people underestimate how niiice Pwn3rs TC can get.