Centrowitz inspires athletes at Broadneck
Olympic gold medalist visits former high school to share his success in Rio
Broadneck student Julianna Fernandez lifted up her foot so Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz could bend down and sign his name on it.
“These are my favorite shoes now,” she said.
Fernandez, a high school runner, said Centrowitz shows that Olympians can come from anywhere.
“We run on the same track as him, same loop,” she said.
Centrowitz won the 1,500-meter race in Rio de Janeiro last summer, the first time an American athlete had won Olympic gold in the event since 1908. A Broadneck graduate, Centrowitz returned to his school Monday to share his success with students and staff.
Students said they admired his humility, his athleticism — and the gold medal hanging from his neck.
During his visit, students waited to take photos with him. The Olympian took off his medal each time and offered the student a chance to wear it.
Centrowitz said it’s strange to be cast into the role of an Olympic champion.
“I’m just another guy trying to do my best and fulfill my potential,” he said to an auditorium of students. (He felt bad he couldn’t reply to all his Twitter messages.)
He complained about a challenging cross country course in Maryland he ran in his younger years, a frustration shared by student-athletes.
And he spoke of the songs he listens to before races, such as “Right Above It” by Lil Wayne.
His path to the Olympic podium was not free of obstacles. He told the students he had a hard time moving from high school to a college on the other side of the country. He was homesick and gained weight his freshman year.
He missed the bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics by a fraction of a second. But he never quit. Jordan Chilcoat, a Broadneck football player, said he admires Centrowitz’s work ethic.
“Hard work actually gets you somewhere,” he said.
Natalia Jacobo, a cross country captain at Broadneck, is motivated by seeing Centrowitz’s name on state records.
She’s 11 seconds short of having her name top a race.
“Myname could go down in the books,” she said.
Later in the afternoon, Centrowitz met with the school staff, which included former teachers. One teacher listened as Centrowitz credited him with giving him the confidence to keep winning.
Dana Dobbs, an American Sign Language teacher at Broadneck, coached Centrowitz for four years in high school. Early on, he noticed Centrowitz’s skills and realized the young runner had the discipline to nurse his talent.
Dobbs said his knees buckled and he cried watching Centrowitz win his Olympic race.
Only other coaches who have seen their athletes achieve great feats understand the feeling of pride, Dobbs said.
“When Matt crossed that line, I became a member of a very, very exclusive group.”
Olympic gold medal winner Matthew Centrowitz, right, laughs with his former running coach, Dana Dobbs, during an appearance at Broadneck on Monday.