"We switched up his training, did our own thing and tried to get him strong going into that," Powell said. "A lot of people hit speed work. We got him strong. I really wanted him to make the finals. That was the goal. I thought that'd be a nice place to start."

Centrowitz's high school exploits did portend this sort of success, if perhaps not this early.

As a senior in 2006-07, he became only the second boy to win three state cross country championships in Class 4A, won both the mile and 3,000 meters at the Penn Relays (becoming the first to do so) and also set a new best in the mile, breaking a record that had stood since 1972. Named The Sun's Male Athlete of the Year, he also became a factor on the national racing scene by winning the 1,500 at the Pan-Am Games and the two-mile race at Nike Outdoor Nationals.

A seven-time All-American and three-timePac-10champion in the 1,500, Centrowitz has developed a reputation for running well in competition.

"I think he gets lost a bit because he does not always put up the flashiest training times," Powell said. "But he's clutch. He runs well when he needs to."

That should be no surprise. Building to important races has been a way of life.

Matt Centrowitz recalls taking his son to watch Nick Rogers, a runner on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, do his final workout in Rhode Island before leaving for the games.

"He was just a kid, sitting in the front row, watching every move, oohing and ahhing with the rest of them," Matt said, his voice breaking. "That's always been a part of his life. But now, to see him there? To be in the midst of this?

"I just … to know that this was my passion, and now, here he is … I can't tell you what the word for that is, for how that feels."

ckorman@baltsun.com

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