23 SEP 2012 General News New York, USA

Centrowitz and Martinez Take Fifth Avenue titles

Matt Centrowitz winning the Fifth Avenue Mile (NYRR)Matt Centrowitz winning the Fifth Avenue Mile (NYRR) © Copyright
Matthew Centrowitz’s New York roots bore fruit in his debut at the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile Presented by Nissan on Sunday.

Centrowitz, 22, stayed patient and shadowed a master tactician, defending champion Bernard Lagat, and when the lead pack made their final moves, the novice had the last word. Centrowitz sprinted past Lagat and won by a half-second in 3:52.4; Olympic 1500m silver medallist Leo Manzano completed an American podium sweep in 3:53.1.

"I have to admit I keyed off Bernard," said Centrowitz. "I love coming to New York — this was great. "My parents, my family, and lots of friends were here."

"I started pushing at 100 metres to go," said Lagat, standing with Centrowitz and Manzano afterward. "I knew these two gentlemen were going to be in pursuit, but I wanted to give my best and run hard. At 50 metres to go, that great miler there" — he nodded to Centrowitz — "just passed me."

Centrowitz’s father Matt attended Manhattan’s Power Memorial High School and made two Olympic teams at 1500m; Matthew just took fourth place at the same distance in the London Games. Like many of the Fifth Avenue pros in this Olympic year, he was relieved at the end of a long season.

"That’s it," he said, smiling. "Junk food, video games, and late nights - it starts now."

In the women’s race, tension built through the first half as the entire pack field of 13 runners remained in contention. Defending champion Jenny Simpson and her 2012 USA Olympic teammate Shannon Rowbury, the 2009 and 2010 champion here, were well-placed with a quarter mile left, as were British Olympians Hannah England and Julia Bleasdale.

But with 200 metres remaining, Brenda Martinez showed them all why she’d been undefeated in her last three road miles: She shot into the lead and built it to five yards to win in 4:24.2. 2008 Olympian and 800m specialist Anna Pierce came up fast to take second (4:24.9), with England third (4:26.0).

"I felt confident," said Martinez. "I’ve learned to be patient — I just got in a rhythm, and with 200 metres to go, I kicked for my life and ran like a maniac."

"This was good," said Pierce, who’s made a resurgence at the end of a frustrating year. "I’ve been running 800s," she said, explaining her fast finish. "I got my first big 800 meter win here, at Icahn Stadium."

England, who finished fifth, fourth, and third in the previous three Fifth Avenue Mile, said, "I was watching Anna and thinking, 'I’m meant to be there!’ But maybe I can skip second place next time."

After the pros had gotten their breath back, they waited for the event’s final finishers: the 14-and-under kids’ division. As the kids crossed the line, they were greeted by cheers and high-fives from some of the fastest runners on earth — who treated them like stars.

Stuart Calderwood (organizers) for the IAAF