Cen­trowitz in­spires ath­letes at Broad­neck

Olympic gold medal­ist vis­its for­mer high school to share his suc­cess in Rio

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Cindy Huang

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.”

JOSHUA MCKERROW/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

Olympic gold medal win­ner Matthew Cen­trowitz, right, laughs with his for­mer run­ning coach, Dana Dobbs, dur­ing an ap­pear­ance at Broad­neck on Mon­day.

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