Matthew Centrowitz was close to ending his chance at a Wanamaker Mile repeat before it even started. Battling congestion for most of the week leading up to Saturday’s NYRR Millrose Games at the Armory in Manhattan, Centrowitz was seriously contemplating calling in sick before cooler heads, or rather the presence of one, prevailed.
“I actually thought about not racing in this race,” Centrowitz said after winning the games’ signature event in 3 minutes, 50.63 seconds. “I talked to [coach] Alberto Salazar on the phone and he said, ‘Look, you’re not going to come away from this race with a huge setback. You’re just fighting this thing.’ My temperature was down. It wasn’t a fever. I didn’t have the flu. It was just basic congestion. He just said that this was something I had to fight out.”
Not only did Centrowitz, 26, out of Annapolis, Maryland, and the University of Oregon, fight it out to win his second consecutive, and third overall, Wanamaker Mile but he broke Lopez Lomong’s Millrose and Armory record of 3:51.21, set in 2013. Centrowitz barely missed the record last year, winning in 3:51.35.
Centrowitz, who said he had requested a 3:50 pace from the pacer earlier in the week, spent the first part of the race nestled firmly in the middle of the pack before surging ahead right before the bell lap. Hardly a pedal-to-the medal performance, the time was a pleasant surprise for the champion.
“I kind of threw the pace out the window and just went for the win,” Centrowitz said. “I honestly wasn’t listening to any splits and had no idea what we came through in throughout the race. I didn’t even know we ran 3:50 until about 30 seconds after the race. That was a big surprise and allows me to know that this is going to be a pretty big year for me . . . This race was about toughing it out and seeing what I could do when I’m not feeling 100 percent.”
Shannon Rowbury also repeated, winning the women’s Wanamaker Mile in 4:24.39. She won last year in 4:24.32, the fastest female mile time at The Armory.
“There’s just so much emphasis placed on the Wanamaker Mile,” said Rowbury, 31, from Portland, Oregon, and Duke and also coached by Salazar. “I had raced here in the past and come second or even further back. So last year, even though I had a rough last 30 meters, I was really proud of the win. Once again, I’m proud.”