Centrowitz on run from crowds

It's been lonely at top in career for Broadneck

High Schools

November 07, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

She's usually a solitary figure on the horizon, her arms pumping briskly as her long stride chews up yards.

In fact, Broadneck senior Lauren Centrowitz - The Sun's All-Metro Runner of the Year last fall in cross country - has been so dominant that she practices by running against the Bruins' boys cross country team.

It's a challenge Centrowitz has welcomed.

"It's funny," she said. "Sometimes they get really mad [that she is leading]. ... No one wants to be beat by a girl. So it's different."

Though Centrowitz acknowledges she hasn't beaten some of her top male teammates, the same cannot be said for her peers, who haven't defeated Centrowitz in a cross country meet in about two years.

Her prowess isn't limited to cross country, either.

Centrowitz earned All-America status this past summer in the 1,600 meters at the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals and has been recruited by practically every Division I cross country or track and field program in the nation. (She has narrowed her choices to six schools, but won't reveal them.)

Since the indoor track season of her sophomore year, she has taken home a state crown in every event in which she has participated.

She has claimed the past two Class 4A-3A state indoor track championships in the 1,600, and earned 4A state outdoor titles in the 1,600 (sophomore year) and 3,200 (junior year).

Last year, she walked away with the 4A state cross country crown in 19 minutes, 9.39 seconds, more than 11 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.

If Centrowitz repeats in tomorrow's state cross country meet over Hereford High's 3-mile course, she would become the Baltimore area's third runner in the past six seasons to win back-to-back championships.

North Carroll's Colleen Lawson won the 3A title in 1998 and 1999 and Towson's Cori Koch grabbed the 2A crown in 2000 and 2001.

Donnie Mickey, who operates the Web site mdrunning.net, calls the 5-foot-8 Centrowitz "one of the top runners to ever come out of Maryland."

"Lauren is a deceptive runner because when she's running, you don't think she possesses that much speed," said Mickey, who also coaches cross country and track at C. Milton Wright.

"But she gets progressively faster through an entire race. ... If you watch her run easy and then run a race, it doesn't look like anything changes. It's effortless for her."

Running in family

That effort wasn't always limited to the track. From third through eighth grade, Centrowitz played soccer.

She discovered track during her middle school years, competing in the 100, 200 and 400 as a member of the Green Hornets' athletic program in Severna Park.

So when Centrowitz entered Broadneck High as a freshman, she told Bruins coach Dana Dobbs she wanted to be a sprinter.

But, "I had my mind changed by Dobbs," she said. "He said, `No, you're a miler.' ... I was frustrated, but he was right."

Recalled Dobbs: "I saw somebody who wanted to keep telling me she was a sprinter because she had some track background, but I saw somebody right off the bat with talent to run the mile."

Dobbs also recognized Centrowitz's family lines. She is the eldest of Matt and Beverly Centrowitz's three children.

Matt Centrowitz is a two-time Olympian who won four consecutive national titles in the 5,000 between 1979 and 1982 and captured a gold medal at the 1979 Pan American Games in that event.

Beverly Centrowitz was a celebrated field hockey player and track athlete at Hunter College in New York who was recently inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.

Matt Centrowitz, cross country and track and field coach at American University in Washington, has coached three Olympians, but he refrains from coaching his daughter.

"There's nothing worse than having two coaches," Matt Centrowitz said. "It's hard enough being a good father without being a coach. ... Anything I would add would be nothing but a distraction."

Another distraction has been the remarks about her achievements being the direct result of her father's genetic input, comments she says that have bothered her immensely.

"I heard it all the time during my sophomore and junior years. `Oh, you must be doing well because you have the genes,' " she said. "Wait a second. Don't I get any credit?"

Lately, that hasn't been a problem. Centrowitz placed eighth in the mile at the junior nationals at Stanford University in June and earned All-America status along with a personal-record time of 4:32 in a semifinal heat.

She recently won her third straight 4A East regional and Anne Arundel County titles, becoming just the second female runner to win three consecutive county championships in the past 22 years. (Annapolis' Kristen Nicolini accomplished the feat between 1992 and 1994.)

She hopes to place in the top eight in the Footlocker Northeast Regional race later this month and qualify for the national event in California.

Staying on track

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