- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

American University's Sean O'Brien was pleased just to make the finals of the 2001 NCAA 1,500-meter championships.
A year later, he's going back to win.
O'Brien will boast the nation's fourth-fastest time in the 1,500 when he toes the starting line in Bernie Moore Stadium at LSU tonight in one of two semifinal heats. Under the guidance of AU coach and two-time Olympian Matt Centrowitz, O'Brien has worked all season to get back to the big meet, and he will get a shot at becoming an NCAA champion if he advances to Saturday's final.
After becoming one of 12 finalists last year, he finished 10th and earned All-American recognition. But partly because he hadn't previously run two highly competitive races in such a short time (three days), he clocked 3:46.83 in the final after running 3:44.40 in the semifinal heat.
With both runner and coach a year more experienced and wiser from the 2001 final, there is reason for optimism.
"We want to get out of the heat first, and then in the final, anything can happen," Centrowitz said. "We want a major improvement [over last year]."
AU is only in its third season of fielding a track and field squad, and O'Brien, a junior from Massachusetts, was in Centrowitz's first class of recruits.
O'Brien ran a personal-best 3:41.29 in the 1,500 in early May, and said part of his success this spring can be attributed to the strength he gained running indoor track this winter for the first time at AU and running increased miles in practice. Centrowitz said some of the top contenders in the 1,500 have battled injuries because of heavy workloads in recent weeks, while O'Brien has remained healthy, "sharpened" his preparation of late and should be in peak form.
Centrowitz knows a little something about distance running. A 1978 University of Oregon graduate, he made the U.S. Olympic Team in 1976 and 1980, won a gold medal at the 1979 Pan American Games in the 5,000 and took four consecutive national titles in the event.
"He's been there and done it," O'Brien said. "He knows exactly what he's doing and exactly how to train I just do what he says."
O'Brien likes his chances for other reasons: He has run his best times in the evening (tonight's race is slated for 7:30 and Saturday's for 8) and the humidity prevalent in Baton Rouge resembles that found in the District.
Now, as Centrowitz said, O'Brien just needs to finish in the top four of his heat or have one of the next four fastest times to advance to the final, then develop a race plan and execute it.
"I'm not 100 percent right, but I have a lot of experience at doing well," Centrowitz said. "It comes in handy with bigger meets, when you do some things differently. Experience is a great teacher."
Meanwhile, Michigan freshman Alan Webb (South Lakes High School) is seeded sixth in the 1,500 at 3:41.46.

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