If she had wanted to, Broadneck junior All-Met runner Lauren Centrowitz could have won every county indoor mile and 800-meter race this winter -- nobody in the county has yet to close in on any of her times. But she didn't. Centrowitz, possibly one of the greatest high school runners to emerge from Anne Arundel County, just wanted a break.
"The whole cross-country season and the Footlocker [Northeast Region Meet] took a lot out of me," said Centrowitz, this year's Class 4A state cross-country champion. "When you compete every season . . . it's just, I didn't have that desire to go out and race anymore."
After much debate, Coach Dana Dobbs decided to forge through the season without her.
"We sat down and talked, her parents and the coaching staff and . . . what we all want is what's going to be best for Lauren," Dobbs said. "Oftentimes, when you have an athlete of Lauren's caliber, do the rules change sometimes? Yes, they do, and it would be shortsighted on my part not to realize that. And I struggled with it; I wrestled with it. But you have to ask yourself, do I change for the sake of one? . . . The bottom line is, what do I feel is best for Lauren? I felt it was in her best interest to really lay low this season."
Until now -- championship time.
In just her third meet of the season, Centrowitz made a five-minute mile look effortless. Not only did she win the race from the nonseeded heat and lead the Bruins to the county girls' title, but Centrowitz also set a county record, 5 minutes 00.9 seconds, last Friday at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover.
Four other meet records were broken that day: Southern senior Andrew Peresta won the 500 meter dash in 1:06.5; North County senior Chris Hopkins won the 300-meter dash record in 35.5; and Old Mill and Southern broke records in the 3,200 and 800-meter relays, respectively. Centrowitz also won the 800-meter race in 2:23.3.
"I figured I would just train, and then I started missing [competing]," Centrowitz said. "I was taking it slow, but I'm back."
Dobbs couldn't be happier with her timing. The Lady Bruins will rely on their distance squad to improve upon last year's fifth-place finish in the 4A/3A Central Region meet, at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Baltimore Armory. Centrowitz has the potential to accumulate 16 to 18 points for her team, in the mile and 800 races.
The Annapolis boys, who compete at 3:30 p.m. today at the armory in the 3A/2A region meet, and the Southern boys, whose 2A/1A meet yesterday ended too late for publication, were also in position to win region titles. At the county championships, the Annapolis boys easily won their second straight indoor county title with 106 points, 55 points ahead of second-place Old Mill. For Severna Park, the bright spot was senior Brian Grubel, who cleared 14 feet to win the pole vault. Northeast senior Ryan Williams set a school record in winning the two-mile race in 9:51.5.
Annapolis senior DeMario Harris cleared 6 feet to win the high jump and placed second in the 55-meter hurdles to Meade's Eugene Perry, who won in 7.6 seconds. Old Mill junior Anthony Littlejohn surprised himself with a first-place finish in the mile in 4:30.2.
On the girls' side, Centrowitz and sophomore Emily Nagle shared the spotlight.
With Centrowitz out most of the season and senior all-county runner Susan St. Cyr taking the season off to concentrate on college visits and grades, Nagle kept the winning tradition alive through the regular season. She didn't lose an individual or relay event until Centrowitz beat her in the 800-meter race at the county championship.
"I would not be where I am without Lauren," said Nagle, who runs with Centrowitz and the boys at practices. "She's something I want to catch."
Nagle is one of many county athletes who isn't thrilled with running the region meet at the Baltimore Armory. Most county coaches consider the track a disadvantage because of its slippery surface, but Dobbs said it could work in his team's favor.
"It's going to change the dynamics of the meet," Dobbs said. "Those teams that are speed teams and very very fast and rely on that, they could really be in trouble because of the floor and lack of spikes. That could play to our favor. It's going to have less of an effect, and we could end up doing better this year than we did last year because of that."
Coaches expect slower times, lower heights and fewer athletes qualifying for the state competition. The standards to qualify for the state meet are based on the sixth-place finishes from last year's state meet, which was held at the Sports & Learning Complex.
But for Annapolis Coach Charles Gross, the Baltimore location is a bonus: His boys' team has won two meets there this season.
"[I expect] an easy victory, I really do," Gross said. "Most of the schools coming up have never ran in the armory. We've had two competitive meets. Our guys are used to the surface, and that's our advantage."