FONT & AUDIO
World champion Centrowitz doesn't disappoint
At the conclusion of each event at the IAAF World Indoor, the athletes left the track and walked along a path that resembled a scaled-down Hollywood awards show red carpet.
For those who placed in the top-three to earn a medal, that often meant a stop at each individual station for an interview with different media outlets.
Beaverton resident Shannon Rowbury, fresh off a bronze medal-winning performance in the womens 3,000 meters, was in the middle of the media circuit Sunday when she noticed Matthew Centrowitz running his 1,500 on one of the television monitors.
I need to watch this race, she said, taking a three-minute break from the interviews while leaning against a railing to get a closer look at the monitor.
Rowbury is teammates with Centrowitz on the Nike Oregon Project group coached by distance guru Alberto Salazar. But over the course of the past four days in the Oregon Convention Center, Rowbury and Centrowitz viewed each other as teammates on a much grander scale.
We are all on Team USA here, Rowbury said. Were consistently the best team in the world, and I think we all did a great job of showing that in this championship meet. We won a lot of medals.
Overall, the United States captured a record 23 medals, including a record 13 gold medals in a meet that featured more than 150 countries.
Centrowitz, a former University of Oregon standout, received the loudest cheer Sunday for his gold medal-winning performance in the 1,500.
One of those cheers came from backstage, where Rowbury let out a loud Wooooo! before resuming her question-and-answer session with the media.
That was incredible, Rowbury said of Centrowitz. It was not easy for him, tactically. His fitness has been great. I had a feeling he would run well.
Centrowitz felt confident, too, but he also felt the butterflies. Throughout the winter, he has been hyping the USATF national indoor meet and the IAAF World Indoor to people from all walks of his life. That included a large group of friends who dont consider themselves track and field fans.
But Centrowitz first brought some of those friends to the free House of Track events in January and February in a warehouse in North Portland. With a DJ playing lively music and a nice selection of local food and beer, Centrowitz said the atmosphere won over his friends.
The big test, though, would be how his friends felt about the championship track and field meets in the OCC. Thats why Centrowitz felt an extra sense of pride-filled nervousness to put on a memorable performance in Sundays 1,500.
I saw just about everyone, my family, some friends that have never seen a track meet before, Centrowitz said of who was in attendance for the final. Its awesome having this, not just on U.S. soil, but in my backyard. Im just glad I wasnt disappointing.
I wont lie. There was a lot of pressure.
It didnt take long for Centrowitz to realize that the anxiousness he felt would be turned into a positive because of the hometown boost hed receive from the fans.
Sure enough, as the race unfolded, the sold-out crowd of 7,191 roared, and most rose to their feet as Centrowitz ran his final two laps.
With about 100 meters to go, I started inching my way over, Centrowitz said of his move to the front of the pack. The crowd got a little bit louder, a little bit louder. I found myself level with (the leader) at about 50 to go, and I just thought how bad I really wanted it.
Centrowitz used that fan support to surge ahead of New Zealands Nichols Willis (third, 3:44.37) and hold off the charging Jakub Holusa (second, 3:44.30) of the Czech Republic.
They carried me that last 50, Centrowitz said of the crowd.
The victory delivered Centrowitz his first gold medal, which hell always treasure.
Im just going to sink this in, Centrowitz said. Now I can add it to my collection. I have one of every color. And now its time to go get an Olympic medal.
Ryan Hill, who runs with the Portland-based Bowerman Track Club, also received an immeasurable boost from the crowd Sunday to win a silver medal in the mens 3,000.
Hill, who moved to Portland in 2013, sat in fifth as the bell rang to signal the final lap. That prompted the fans to increase their applause, which seemed to simultaneously increase the speed in Hills kick.
In a gutty finish, Hill treated the final 50 meters like an all-out sprint and leaned at the line in a second-place time of 7:57.39. Ethiopias Yomif Kejelcha was first in 7:57.21.
My best world finish before this was seventh so to come back with a second, thats really hard to complain about, Hill said.
But Hill couldnt help but wonder if he could have finished in first by increasing his speed earlier in the race.
I had a really good day, not a perfect day, Hill said. Went a little too conservative. I passed three people in the final lap. Thats pretty hard to do on an indoor track. It probably shows that I had the wheels to win, just needed a little more confidence.
In that respect, Hill said the silver medal provided a much-needed increase of self-belief that he plans to carry over into the outdoor season.
My style of running will be a lot better on an outdoor track, more room to work, Hill said. I hope if I make it to an Olympic final, its a lot like this (race.) I would say the last 400 I was covering as much ground as I could. Youre not even thinking about how hard youre going on the last lap. Youre just doing whatever you can. Its all instinct.
The United States mens team also picked up gold medals from Marquis Dendy in the long jump (27-1 ¼) and in the 4x400 relay (3:02.45).
The relay team of Kyle Clemons, Calvin Smith, Christopher Giesting and Vernon Norwood won the final event of the meet with a world-leading time that was the third-fastest ever indoors.
It means a lot for us to represent our country and bring home the gold medal, Norwood said. It was a lot of fun out there.
Note: The four-day, six-session total for attendance in the temporary 7,000-seat venue was 39,283.