|Matthew Centrowitz - University of Oregon
EUGENE - How good can Oregon's Matthew Centrowitz be? His 3000 meter race last weekend at the Husky Classic gave us another glimpse at the tremendous potential of this talented runner.
As accomplished as Centrowitz has been over the last three years, he has been overshadowed by former Oregon teammates Galen Rupp and Andrew Wheating, who have long since become household names among track fans. To date, Centrowitz, who is now a redshirt junior in outdoor track eligibility, has not won an individual NCAA championship, has not set any school records, and, unless you count back-to-back Pac-10 titles in the 1500 meters, hasn't won a major title.
But his time could be here soon.
In Saturday's 3000 meter race in Seattle, Centrowitz's strong finish carried him past a veritable Who's Who of high-profile distance runners, including Alan Webb, Sam Chelanga and German Fernandez, to name a few.
Centrowitz said his strategy for the race was "to stay in the mix of things and have a good last 800," and he followed Webb for most of the race. His closing speed over the last 200 meters was impressive. I didn't have a watch on him, but he was moving better than anyone else in the world-class field at the finish and, had he kicked just a little sooner, he might have even caught winner Tim Nelson before the finish line.
Centrowitz has a PR of 3:36.92 in the 1500, good for the 7th fastest collegian ever. He ran that as a freshman at the Cardinal Invitational in May 2009, and went into the NCAA championships that year as one of the favorites. Unfortunately, he didn't make it to the NCAA finals that year due to a severe foot injury.
While he was slightly under the radar in 2010, Centrowitz raced very well outdoors and finished the year strong. In addition to winning the Pac-10, he was part of the 1-2-3 Oregon sweep in the NCAA 1500 meters, as he was third in a photo finish behind Wheating and A.J. Acosta. A few weeks later, he ran a 3:40.14 in the semi-finals at the USATF championships to qualify for the finals. Predictably, the USATF 1500 final was a tactical race, with an agonizingly slow pace followed by an all-out, wild sprint on the last lap. Centrowitz again displayed great closing speed in finishing 5th as the collegian in the race.
It appears that Centrowitz will run the 3000 at the NCAA Indoor Meet, but he said that it is possible he could go for a auto qualifier in the mile as well. Outdoors, it looks like he could run either the 1500 or the 5000. History suggests the former, but his strength and ability to run a last lap in the low 50s could also serve him well in the 5000. Both races will have stacked fields, but keep an eye on him. Centrowitz may be poised for a great finish to his college career.