Former Broadneck track and field star Matthew Centrowitz gave up his senior year of eligibility at Oregon in November to turn professional and improve his chances of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London.
On Sunday, Centrowitz could look back on that difficult decision and know he made the right one.
At the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Centrowitz took the lead early in the final lap of the 1,500 meters, but was passed with about 25 meters to go by U.S. Olympic veteran Leonel Manzano. Manzano beat Centrowitz to the tape, 3:35.75 to 3:35.84. Andrew Wheating, also from Oregon, finished third in 3:36.68. All three qualified for the London Games.
"This is my first Olympic team so I'm very excited to represent the United States in the Olympics on the biggest stage for track and field," Centrowitz said after the race. "I just wanted to put myself in good position [to qualify]."
Centrowitz said he didn't worry about starting at a fast pace to acheive the Olympic "A" standard.
"Regardless if it was slow or fast I wanted to get out pretty well. I wanted to put myself in a position that it looked like I knew what I was doing. I hope I fooled you," he said.
For Manzano of the University of Texas, it will be his second Olympics. It will be Wheating's second Olympics (he qualified in 2008 in the 800 meters) and Centrowitz's first. Centrowitz's father, Matthew Sr., twice represented the United States in the Olympics and is the track and field coach at American.
The younger Centrowitz, 22, had a breakout year on the track in 2011. He won the 1,500-meter NCAA championship and followed that with the USA Track and Field title in the 1,500. He then became the youngest American ever to medal in the 1,500 at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships when he earned the bronze in South Korea in September.
In January, Centrowitz signed a multi-year endorsement contract with Nike, which is based in Oregon. It allowed Centrowitz to train with the Nike Oregon Project coached by Alberto Salazar with the assistance of Andy Powell, who coached Centrowitz throughout his college career.
Centrowitz said Powell has been busy with athletes at Oregon so Salazar, one of the great distance runners in U.S. history, stepped in "to watch my workouts and mentor me." Salazar won three New York City Marathons and a Boston Marathon in his career.
Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.