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Boys 2 Mile Preview
by Dave Devine

8 LAPS with Matt Centrowitz and Craig Forys

There's some history between these two. Nike Indoor Nationals... Penn Relays...Nike Outdoor Nationals...Foot Locker Nationals...if there's a big stage in US prep running, Matt Centrowitz (left) and Craig Forys (right) have met on it. Forys was the wunderkind, establishing early on in his career that he was a force to reckoned with. Centrowitz certainly had the bloodlines, and while not exactly a late-bloomer, he didn't truly hit the national radar until his breakout victory over Forys at the 2006 Penn Relays. From there they've had several memorable battles, with the 2007 Nike Outdoor Nationals Boys 2 Mile shaping up to be the latest classic. It's by no means a two-man race (see below), but with the times these two have thrown down this spring, they are certainly among the most buzz-worthy competitors.

Forys and Centrowitz have developed a friendship borne of mutual respect and shared competition, according to Coach Jim Schlentz, Craig's mentor at Colts Neck HS. "They're good friends and great competitors," Coach Schlentz says. "The first time they met was at Penn Relays, when Matty upset Craig in the 3k." That summer, Centrowitz met Schlentz at a Rhode Island running camp and the two spent a long time talking. "Then," Centrowitz says, "Craig and I hung out at Foot Locker, since we were both on the Northeast team. Indoors, as each race got more intense, we got to know each other better." Schlentz, who has great respect for all of the competitors in the NON 2-mile, making special note of Evan Jager's recent 4:07 mile, nonetheless said that after seeing Forys and Centrowitz lock up numerous times, "we know Matty can really close. I'd hate to be a bettor, because this one's too close to call."

Photos by Vic Sailer

Here's 8 laps in the storied careers of Centrowitz and Forys:


2006 Nike Indoor Nationals - 2 Mile

A midrace surge by Forys in the fast heat of the boys 2-mile turned the race into a two-man competition with eventual winner Michael Coe (8:56.87). Coe seized the lead back with three laps to go, leaving Forys to finish a strong second, slipping under 9 for an 8:59.98.

Centrowitz, already a junior, wasn't included in the fast heats at national meets at this point. He won section 2 of the boys 2-mile in 9:20.38.

2006 Penn Relays - 3000

Pre-race favorite Forys looked great throughout, sitting back early and then taking the lead with a strong move with 800m left. But Centrowitz went with him and found another gear, opening his stride and surging through the final turn to claim the 8:20.09 to 8:21.82 upset victory.

2006 Nike Outdoor Nationals - Mile and 2 Mile

Running separately again, Forys tackled the mile against indoor nemesis Coe, and Centrowitz took on the 2-mile, running into the buzzsaw that was AJ Acosta's senior campaign. Centrowitz was in the lead pack of the 2-mile with four laps left, but with two to go, Acosta and Michael Cybulski pulled away from the field. Acosta won in 8:46.32 and Centrowitz faded to 13th in 9:16.18. In the mile, Forys was with the leaders at the bell, but on the backstretch first Kenny Klotz and then Coe moved, with Ayalew Taye on their heels. Coe powered to the win in 4:08.21, leaving Forys 6th in 4:11.30


2006 Foot Locker Northeast Regional

In the back hills at storied Van Cortlandt Park, Forys moved to the front and reached the bridge with a 20 meter lead on the pack. Centrowitz and Sintayehu Taye went on the offensive and began chasing him. Charging down the final hill and onto the flats once again, Centrowitz caught Forys with Taye right beind. Forys dug one more time and found enough to pull way for the win. Depleted by his charge, Centrowitz struggled home, but still had enough to secure 5th place and a trip to San Diego.

2006 Foot Locker Nationals

Chad Hall was the victor in 15:20, after a see-saw battle with Steve Murdock in the final mile, but a late-charging Forys wheeled past five rivals (including Murdock) over the last 700 meters to claim second in 15:24. Centrowitz stayed close throughout and nailed down a top-10 spot with his 15:34 8th place finish.


2007 Reebok Boston Indoor Games - Mile

Forys took the lead after the 800 mark and looked strong until Centrowitz charged with 350 to go and gapped the field instantly. The race seemed to be his as he stormed around the far turn and powered away, but Duncan Phillips started rolling with 150m left, caught Centrowitz with 70m to go and stormed by for the 4:09.20 victory. Centrowitz finished 2nd in a huge PR, 4:10.85, while Forys came home 7th in 4:16.92

2007 Nike Indoor Nationals - 2 Mile

One year after Forys lost to Coe in the NIN 2-mile, and Centrowitz was relegated to the second heat, they locked up for a great battle that showed how far each had come. Centrowitz moved into the lead for the first time with a lap and a half to go, but on the backstretch of the bell lap, Forys charged back to the fore. The pair raced down the homestretch to ear-splitting tumult, with Forys slipping ahead for the 9:01.57 to 9:02.05 win.


2007 Nike Outdoor Nationals - 2 Mile

Could there be a better ending-- two friendly rivals at the height of their game, meeting to race for a national title? Forys' coach, Jim Schlentz, says Craig chose the 2-mile, not because he knew it would be a stacked race, but because it gave him a chance to anchor his high school's DMR the next day. Centrowitz, who certainly would have been the favorite in the mile, made his selection after the 2-mile field was somewhat fleshed out. "Definitely, with Craig being in it, it pushed the idea of the two mile for me. It was disappointing losing [the NIN 2-mile] indoors, and I wanted another chance at him." Centrowitz knows, however, that focusing on one runner is seldom the ticket to victory. "If you get into a race looking to key off a certain runner, they may have a bad day. My plan is to settle into the elite pack and be ready to go when they go."

Schlentz and Forys are following a similar tack. "My goal as a coach," Schlentz says, "Is to set up my runner for every possibility." Which is why Forys has trained to be ready for anything. "His preparation is right on," Schlentz said. Coming off a 4:03 mile with elites at the Reebok Grand Prix, Centrowitz has similar confidence in his training, which means as the bell rings on the last lap of the 2-mile at Nike Outdoor Nationals, this could be a very special race for the fans in North Carolina.
All Photos, DyeStat archives

Besides Centrowitz and Forys, here are four others to expect in the mix for the 2 Mile:

 Evan Jager IL - 8:52.33 at IL state, 4:07 mile at MWDG, rounding into shape, devastating kick
Luke Puskedra UT- 9:00.51 2-mile winner at Arcadia, 3rd in NIN 2-mile, trains at altitude, goes from the gun
Mark Amirault MA - 8:59.56 2-mile at Hartford Open, 9th in last year's NON 2-mile
Paul Springer PA - chased Forys to 8:52.86 2-mile at the Henderson Meet