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Centrowitz follows in father's footsteps on track

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2 2012 3:55 p.m. MST

To think, running didn't really take root right away for Matthew Centrowitz. Soccer was his first love.

Only, Centrowitz really wasn't built for that sport. When he was a freshman at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Md., he was just under 5 feet tall and barely 100 pounds — the perfect physique for a distance runner.

So he switched since running was already the family business. He even hung posters on his wall of Prefontaine, the charismatic and talented runner for the Ducks whom his father used to train with before Pre's death in a car accident at age 24.

Always a solid runner, Matthew Centrowitz wasn't on the radar of many big-time colleges until this: At the Penn Relay in 2006, he turned in a blistering last lap to win the high school 3,000 meters.

That brought him notice. And pressure because of his last name.

"Everyone always stacked me up against him," Centrowitz said.

Watch film of the elder Centrowitz and compare it to his son — they're nothing alike. Maybe the way they carry their arms, but that's about it.

"I think anyone would tell you he's more of a strength runner," the son said of his dad. "He's told me many times: He wasn't able to kick in a race like I was able to. He had more strength than I have at this point of my career, but I have more speed."

Always has.

Growing up, he used to go out on training runs with sister Lauren, who's three years older, and always tried to zip by her. Maybe that's where he developed his kick.

"So competitive all the time," she said, laughing. "We'd go running with my dad and Matthew never wanted to stop."

Once at Oregon, Centrowitz measured his progress not against his father but through Prefontaine, checking to see if the times Pre ran each season were comparable to his.

"It was a wake-up call, knowing I needed to be here or here," Centrowitz said.

He was on his game last season as he captured the 1,500 titles at the NCAA and U.S. championships.

Then, just before worlds last summer, Centrowitz also broke the school mark by nearly two seconds with a time of 3:34.69 at a Diamond League meet in Paris.

He followed that up by becoming the youngest American to earn a medal in that event at worlds.

"He just got hot and off he went," his father said. "He's a very hungry kid, wants to be successful."

Simply following in his father's footsteps.

Follow AP Sports Writer Pat Graham on Twitter: http://twitter.com/pgraham34 .

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